Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

I was living in California during this: Jerry Brown’s Greatest Legacy Is Proving California Is Governable

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A really excellent retrospective of an unusual and highly productive life. Todd Purdum writes in the Atlantic:

When Jerry Brown first took the oath as governor of California on January 6, 1975, he succeeded Ronald Reagan, who was still six years away from the White House. Gerald Ford was president, Paul VI was pope, the Watergate conspirators John Mitchell, H. R. Haldeman, and John Ehrlichman had just been convicted, the Khmer Rouge was beginning its bloody rise to power in Cambodia, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at around 600 points, and Bradley Cooper had been born the day before.

It is no exaggeration to say that Brown’s tenure as governor of the Golden State—two disparate tours, separated by nearly 30 years, four terms and16 years in all—bookends virtually the entire modern history of California. He is both the youngest and oldest man in modern times to preside over his state, and five years ago he surpassed Earl Warren’s tenure as the longest-serving California governor. He leaves office next month, at 80, at the top of his game, California’s once-depleted coffers bursting with surplus, his flaky youthful reputation as “Governor Moonbeam” long since supplanted by his stature as perhaps the most successful politician in contemporary America.

A onetime seminarian who has never lost his quirky asceticism—in his first term, he slept on a mattress in a small apartment in Sacramento and rode around in a modest blue Plymouth instead of a limousine—he is fond of quoting poets and obscure philosophers and has lived by the Jesuit maxim “Age quod agis”“Do what you are doing.” He famously dated Linda Ronstadt, but could be clueless about pop culture; in the summer of 1980, when billboards and T-shirts all over America were demanding, “Who shot J. R.?”—the smiling, so-bad-he’s-good villain of TV’s Dallas—Brown asked his press secretary, “Who’s J. R.?”

He was a dedicated environmentalist, promoting wind and geothermal energy before those technologies were in vogue, and a visionary when that quality was mocked in politics; indeed, the Chicago columnist Mike Royko, who tagged Brown with his lunar nickname (the governor had suggested California might launch its own communications satellite), could never have imagined that Brown would announce just this fall that the state was contracting for the launch of “our own damn satellite” to monitor global climate change. He was a socially liberal Democrat who embraced diversity when gay marriage was no more than a dream, but he was also wary of partisan orthodoxy and famously tight with a buck.

When he took office for the second time eight years ago, the state had a $27 billion deficit; now it has a dedicated rainy-day fund more than half that size, and a like amount in another one-time discretionary surplus for the coming budget year. In the past eight years, the state has added roughly 3 million jobs, refuting the canard that its tough environmental and labor regulations are impediments to growth. When he signed his last budget last summer, Brown was joined by legislative leaders—the oldest of whom was only 12 when he was first elected.

“There are so many things that are going on all the time, even as we speak, that it’s hard to pick out ‘This is the one,’ or ‘That is the one,’” he told me in a telephone conversation the other day when asked to name his proudest legacy, nevertheless ticking off more than a few of those listed in the previous paragraphs. “I think it’s just a privilege to be in California, and to have been the governor these many years. It’s an unusual experience and very exciting, and, I think most people would agree, fairly productive and innovative. So I don’t know. I’m not one to sit around watching the movie of my own life as a source of pleasure. I can tell you, I thoroughly enjoy what I’m doing.”

Raphael Sonenshein, the executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University in Los Angeles (named for Brown’s father, who served two terms as governor from 1959 to 1967), said that the younger Brown’s greatest legacy was “proving that California was governable at a time when California’s image was under assault as the next Greece.”

“That’s a big deal in many ways,” Sonenshein adds. “Because it also plays into the partisan politics of the country, since the state was being held up as the poster child of what was wrong with progressive government. And it’s pretty hard to be a punching bag when you’ve got two reserve funds that are pretty gigantic, and a state that’s doing pretty darn well. It might not be the legacy he started out with 40 years ago, or that he necessarily wanted to have, but it’s a pretty big deal.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2018 at 12:32 pm

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