There is now a whole generation of California voters who do not remember Governor Moonbeam or that we were all so happy to see the last of him back in ’82. It has been 28 years since Brown was Governor, which means that most voters under 35 view it as ancient history.
I do remember it, and I’d dearly love to avoid repeating it.
The first vote I ever cast was against Jerry Brown in 1974, in the battle to succeed Ronald Reagan as California’s governor. It wasn’t that I liked the Republican (Houston Flournoy, a boring suit) but that I disliked the glib, pandering, moralistic, green, right-brain candidacy of Jerry Brown. Brown, the 37-year-old son of the guy Reagan beat in 1966, was running an anti-corporation populist campaign to bring counter-culture values to Sacramento.
He won, and proceeded in 8 short years to wreck the state.
- A 15-year halt in freeway construction. It wasn’t until 1990 that California began to expand its freeway system once again, but the state has never caught up with rising demand. The ongoing economic cost of chronic congestion plays a large role in California’s fiscal imbalance. This is ironic because Jerry got into politics with the help of his father “Pat” Brown, the man who built California’s infrastructure by sheer force of will. Nobody ever called Pat Brown “Moonbeam.”
- The effective end of the death penalty in California. Not only did Brown veto several death penalty laws after the US Supreme Court withdrew its moratorium, but even after an initiative overwhelmingly passed, he did everything possible to prevent its provisions from being carried out.
- The Rose Bird Court. When Brown left office he had appointed 6 of the 7 Justices on the California Supreme Court, including Chief Justice Rose Bird. In the 1960’s, the California court was widely regarded as one of the finest state supreme courts in the country. But the court that Jerry Brown left was anything but. It was particularly known for its pro-criminal sentiments. During her term in office, Rose Bird voted to vacate, overturn or remand every death penalty case that came before her. If that was not possible, the case languished on the docket for years. In every case where “civil rights” conflicted with criminal law, the criminals won. In one famous case the Court ruled that a fleeing burglar had a right to expect that his abandoned car – filled with loot from his crimes – was off limits to police until they got a warrant. The court’s decision said that the car was not abandoned, just “temporarily left” and the thief had an expectation of privacy. In 1986, Bird and two other justices were removed by the electorate, the first time any Supreme Court justice had failed confirmation.
- Public Employee Unions. In 1978, Jerry Brown signed the bill that allowed collective bargaining by public employee unions in California. This is probably the single worst thing any Governor of California has done or ever will do. Instead of Civil Service employees trading low pay for job security and an assured pension, we now have a runaway budget that is built in for the next 40 years. It is not at all clear if this can be solved without state bankruptcy, since these union contracts have been written with union stooges on both sides of the table for decades. And now Jerry wants to solve it. This is like the guy who steals your wallet then helps you look for it. Anyone want to bet the solution isn’t higher taxes?
- The California Gerrymander. In 1981, the Democrat-controlled legislature passed a marvel of gerrymandering. The Burton Plan, as it was known, gave the Democrats lopsided control of the statehouse in a way that proved impervious to popular vote. It was so one-sided that the plan was subjected to a statewide referendum, and lost. However the Democrats simply arranged for a slightly different plan to pass again, this time as an emergency bill. Brown signed it, even though it was clearly just the same rejected plan with a few tweaks. Again petitions went out for a referendum, which would have again succeeded, but the Rose Bird Court ruled that emergency measures were immune to Referendum and the Burton Plan became law. In 1986, this and other gerrymanders left Democrats with a large majority in Congress despite a tie in the cumulative Congressional vote.
- A long history of “campaign reform” laws that have had no effect whatsoever in preventing political corruption, but have been remarkably effective in hampering challengers to incumbent officials. Maybe next time it will be different.
- An anti-business climate that started with Brown’s first campaign and continues to this day. In all his roles, from Secretary of State to Governor to Attorney General, Brown has been unremittingly hostile to corporations and business, pretending to champion the “consumer” and common man. As if you can have all those consumers happily employed with no businesses left to employ them.
California is in real trouble. Serious life-threatening trouble. And the guy most responsible for getting us in that predicament now wants to be Governor again.
We have one candidate who has taken a nothing startup and put it in the Fortune 500. She knows how to get things done and is no one’s fool. We have another whose major accomplishments in life are 1) being a former Governor’s son, and 2) guiding the Golden State into a ditch.
And what are we all talking about? Some nonsense about a maid. If we elect Brown again, we will only have ourselves to blame.