de.us ex ma. chi. na \dã-?-,sek-‘smak-?-n?,de¯\ n [NL, a god from a machine, trans. of Gk theos ek mechanes]: a person or thing that appears or is introduced suddenly and unexpectedly and provides a contrived solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty — Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary
It is quiet in Laurel Canyon where the modern houses are tucked away amidst trees and knolls. But things are whirling in his mind. Jerry Brown glances over at the shotgun in the corner, rises out of bed, and enters the shower. Sitting on the toilet he skims a page of Wittgenstein which had been left out on the sink.
From the bedroom closet he pulls on an initialed white shirt, vest and suit. He decides on a striped tie over the usual dotted one. The suit is executive style, with an arc up the sides to sharp, almost pointed shoulders, creating an erect figure. He combs down the thinning hair, gray at the sideburns, a bit stringy over the back collar, and wonders if he shouldn’t have it cut.
He makes coffee, then paces out of the messy kitchen to the comfortable, open, sunlit rooms where he studies, meets and socializes. He is very proud of this house, his only possession. It is more dignified than the funky one where he lived in Los Angeles’s Silver Lake district, but not chic like the beach house in Malibu. Informal, but fine for entertaining contributors; in the city, but surrounded by woods.
He flips on a Gregorian chant, fingers a Brookings Institution study of the 1974 federal budget which he should read, then picks up a book on Sufism from the round wooden table. A cover note by Robert Graves reads: “The natural Sufi may be as common in the West as in the East, and may come dressed as a general, a merchant, a lawyer, a schoolmaster, a housewife, anything. To be ‘in the world but not of it,’ free from ambition, greed, intellectual pride, blind obedience to custom or awe of persons of higher rank: that is the Sufi’s ideal.”
He drops it back with the budgets, the land-use studies, the Krishnamurti. No time. He moves toward the phone while scanning the Los Angeles Times. They’ve got him again for a lack of specifics. Why aren’t they interested in ideas? What about the morning news: He turns on the television that has video-recording equipment attached. Brown by a narrow margin, it says, 50.2% to 47.3 for Houston I. Flournoy.
At the sound of the station wagon pulling up the gravel driveway, he moves quickly out of the open door. The day has begun for the new governor of California.
The final days of the campaign have been unexpectedly tense. After months of a ten to 15% lead in the polls, Brown has been slipping almost a point a day in the final week. Logic and the polls still dictate a certain victory but for the first time the campaign’s confidence is slipping. Is the narrowing gap simply a final, limited Republican consolidation? Or are the mysteries about Edmund G. Brown Jr. starting to work on the public nerve as the day of decision approaches?
Monday, November 4th “Jerry’s just ‘unsafe’ in a lot of people’s minds,” frets Tom Quinn, the 30-year-old campaign director. “You know, most people are conservative, scared, a lot more like Archie Bunker than you.” We are “somewhere over California,” a television reporter is telling his audience, in a two-engine rented plane carrying staff, friends and press through the final phase.
Starting in San Diego at eight in the morning, Brown has been popping out of the plane to address airport rallies at Burbank, San Francisco, Sacramento and Fresno. No minds will be changed at these airports but the media will pick up the motion and the excitement, and anyhow it’s a good way to release the burning energy of the final day.
If ambition could crack steel, this plane would crash. For almost five years an unlikely little circle of ex-nuns, media men, spiritual freaks, young lawyers and academics has been slaving to land a new force in the center of American politics. This is the turning point. Make it and move into the open field; blow it, and. . .don’t even think about it.
The candidate is a little more animated than usual, playfully excited, touched by the expectancy of today’s crowds, free associating in his last short speeches. Congressman John Moss, the mannered old dean of California’s House delegation, tells the crowd in Sacramento: “I’m glad to introduce a young man, because we need the young people to bring about changes. . .”
To which Jerry replies: “Thank you, Congressman, thank you. . .that’s a fine suit you’ve got on today, with a vest I see. I’m glad one of us is being respectable. I do have my pin-striped suit on, I’m wearing my Republican clothes today. . .” Then follows his standard, fingerjabbing call for a choice between “sending a new spirit to Sacramento” or “recycling Reaganism.” The speech is very polished now, from a man who could barely speak without notes one year ago.
He finishes amidst applause, shouts, waving balloons, then remembers he is to introduce also Bill Norris, candidate for attorney general, the one Democrat on the state ticket who is fated to lose. Norris tries to get rolling before the crowd fades away and is shouting something about “the dawn of a new age” when Brown interrupts and seizes the microphone to say, “Wait a minute about this new age, now, there are limits on what can be done, this is still the Age of Aquarius. . .”
Many in the crowds today are Chicanos, waving their Huelga flags, cheering this young ex-seminarian who once walked with Chavez, whose father, the former governor Pat Brown, they remember fondly, and whom they seem ready to accept as a son. Especially in Fresno, heart of the San Joaquin Valley, where the campaign comes to its end in the chilly afternoon. Many are old, with sad wrinkled faces of hope, throwing the candidate their fists and reaching for his hand. “This valley can feed the world. It has the resources, the workers, the capital, all it lacks is the political will, the spirit, the determination.” The scene recalls Bobby Kennedy.
The plane is up again, the darkness begins, and with it, the waiting. “Strikes by public employees, opposing capital punishment, decriminalizing marijuana, people aren’t ready for it,” the candidate muses. “It’s going to be a six-point margin and that isn’t much for a ‘new spirit.'”
Tuesday, November 6th The Convention Center in downtown L.A. is an empty canyon of steel and concrete. Two hundred union rank-and-filers are meeting to plan protests against inflation — “We’ll do what workers did in the Thirties, this time without the mistakes,” one is promising. It is in the afternoon and the Brown staff efficiently begins to set up the victory party ahead.
Jerry Brown has been planning the victory celebration for months. It’s not going to be in a customary Beverly Hills hotel, for “that idea of little private parties for contributors is over.” He gladly lets his father hold an affair over at the Hyatt Regency, but Jerry is going to focus on the Convention Center. So what if personalities won’t come? “It’s going to be very hang-loose, we don’t know who’s showing up,” says Llew Werner, the 25-year-old press spokesman. There’s going to be a mariachi band; a five-man acapella “street-corner symphony”; the country & western folks from the Palomino Club; Buddy Collette and his jazz band; and the Sufi Choir. The Brown coalition will be reflected in the eats too; little booths will be serving Mexican, Italian, Chinese and American dishes. And two big banners will hang over all of this, one with words from Martin Luther King: “We are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” The other is in Latin which the candidate studied for eight years: “Age Quod Agis,” which literally means “Do what you must do” or, in modern terms, “Do your own thing.”
8 p.m. The polls close. Five hundred are at the Center, a third the number who will arrive. Everywhere else the Democrats are rolling. Will it hold here? Rumors fly: that Wolfman Jack wants to deliver flowers onstage; that Buck Owens will sing “Okie from Muskogee.” And Marjoe is here — the repentant Pentecostal preacher, now an actor, who met Jerry last fall and talked with him for three hours about “crowd rhetoric.” They shared a common view of the power of the pulpit.
“I had sort of laughed at politicians,” Marjoe recalls, “but I liked him. I could tell he wanted power, a lot of power, and maybe it was politician rhetoric when he said he wanted to turn the governor’s mansion into an orphanage, but my vibe was that he wanted power for good, not to get himself a limousine.”
8:30 p.m. Flournoy is ahead in the first returns but CBS already projects a Brown victory. Most people are paying attention to the 20 televisions around the floor, a few are listening to the music, little knots are forming. Up in Laurel Canyon, the candidate has changed from Levi’s into his Republican suit, this time with the vest, and starts toward the Center. Downtown, Pat Brown’s party at the Hyatt Regency is crowded with a lot of people looking like lawyers and contributors and exuding confidence.
Jacques Barzaghi, who also lives in Laurel Canyon, and who takes care of Jerry’s house, is already pacing around the Center. Jacques is a balding mystic with a power-mad look. This night his eyes are fairly bulging into his rimless glasses as he briskly trots around. “Jacques,” I ask, “why are your eyes bulging tonight?” He steps close and whispers, “I smoked,” places a finger over his lips, and cackles.
9 p.m. The candidate arrives on the second floor of the Convention Center, where the staff offices sit above the big hall, accompanied by an L.A. police security force for the first time in months. His concern for security has risen slightly this week as victory — and the end of obscurity — approaches. “If they’re going to do something, that’s where it’ll happen,” he has mentioned to a friend. But now the question is how to get down to the floor among the people. He wants to circulate for about 45 minutes, then speak.
Until now Jerry Brown has been able to circulate. His face had been unknown, his personality unexplosive, even far into the apathetic campaign. Now the madness is beginning. It is what candidates both fear and exploit, this magnetized swarm of camera-swinging, autograph-hunting, news-digging, hyped-up supporters. But there is a difference: It is, says someone, a kind of “benign” crowd as crowds go. So far, the consciousness is okay.
Finally, Jerry Brown bursts out of the staff offices and starts to go downstairs. “What’s the name of that book by Maxwell Taylor,” he asks a reporter in the crowd. “The Uncertain Trumpet? Or something like that? That’s what this mandate is, an uncertain trumpet.” It is the closest governor’s race in California since 1920, with the lowest voter turnout since 1946.
A line of five hard, almost mean-looking men steps forward in his crowded path. They are the labor powers of the state, including Jack Henning, the vehement opponent of political reform and Jerry Brown in the June primary. For mutual advantage, he and Brown have backed each other in the general election. But Henning remains the symbol of bossism in Democratic state politics, and now he plays his role, pushing up to ask the candidate for a meeting. Why now? Who knows? But here is a little status confrontation between political impulses. Brown strides along, still intent on his plan to circulate downstairs, then changes step and calls to aides to let him meet with the labor men for a minute. They turn off into a side room. A slightly beatific young woman mutters, “What’s he doing? He should be downstairs with the Sufi Choir.” After a minute, Brown emerges with his labor circle saying, “I want to get downstairs,” and out they go.
9:30 p.m. He’s on the floor and the Sufis are singing, about 20 freaks swaying before the beaming eyes of the cameras. A genuine cheer goes up, and signs wave; one says in professional print, “Brown for President.” “Such is the generation/We are the generation/Lift up your hands. . . .”A Sufi gently announces, “Jerry Brown says, ‘If you want to get high, meditate,’ so this is meditational. . .” Om sri ram/Jai jai ram. . .
Joseph Benti of CBS News, bemused, narrates: “It could not be that Jerry Brown was unaware that when he entered, the Sufi Choir would be playing. . .”
It turns out one of the Sufis went to Stanford with his sister Kathy (now married to a lawyer named Rice, making her Kathy “Brown Rice”). She introduces us. Back in the Sixties the Sufi friend demonstrated, left for the country when the vibes got ugly, became interested in the spiritual movement, met Baba Ram Dass, and has been deciding over the past year, with other Sufis, that the political realm has possibilities. The Choir sang at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco for Jerry at the October 14th fundraising finale. “He was at the show the next day in Berkeley, and came backstage afterwards. We have a certain kinship, like in that slogan of Martin Luther King’s up there, that phrase ‘righteousness’; he’s a righteous man. His political principles are derived from ancient sages, like Plato, Lao-tzu, Jesus, the I Ching. We’re into the power of love, concentration, intelligence, the pursuit of truth. We first connected with Jerry Brown because he wanted us to do an invocation in place of the regular rabbi or priest, so we did ‘Bismallah er-Rahman, Er-rahia’ [‘We begin in the name of God’].”
Jacques still is pacing, now a bit more like floating, as the climax approaches. He twirls his hands. “The energy is just right, everything is good.” What are you going to do next, I want to know, go to Sacramento? “Well,” he begins, enlarging his eyes, “go to India, I suppose. . .” But why? “Well, to improve myself, for more awareness, to grow, you know.”
Minutes later, at nearly 11 p.m., Jerry Brown is ready to accept. He has been waiting for Mayor Tom Bradley, reelected Senator Alan Cranston, Senator John Tunney, Assembly Speaker Leo McCarthy, and his mother and father. They all come down the elevator together and, finally, onstage for the last ritual of the 1974 campaign. “Brown for president,” someone is screaming. An old woman beside me keeps pushing, waving, declaring, “Oh God, oh God, yes, he’s wonderful. . .”
“Now, let’s lower the energy level in here,” Brown beings. It does go down slightly, amidst laughter. There is another “Brown for president” shouted in the slight pause. “It’s pretty obvious from the polls that you’re going to have a Democratic governor in 1975!” Cheers. A modest beginning, stressing the party factor over the personality. He has won by the closest margin of any of the state’s Democratic winners.
“Some say I got here because of my father. . .but it’s actually my mother!. . . Where is my father?” The old man, defeated in 1966 by Ronald Reagan, steps up and retorts, “I just wanna say I had somethin’ to do with it!”
Now he touches the recurrent themes. Change is difficult. Miracles can’t be expected. “Not to a past that never was, but toward a future that can be.” It’s the tenth month of a recession. “People have always come to California to find a place in the sun. We have the resources, but we lack the will. We can be a model for the whole country . . . The main crisis is the human energy crisis.
“I don’t believe in charisma, personality. I believe in the party, the people who’ve been working longer than me.” The others are introduced, at first graciously. The mayor. The speaker: “He’s supposed to be the second most powerful man in California, so I guess we’ll work with him!” Tunney: “Another man who was first elected when he was 36.” Cranston, as senior Democrat, is asked to say a word: “Jerry has played errorless ball through every inning.”
“Is there anybody I forgot?” His mother; she steps up. Bradley whispers. “Oh, yes, Jack Henning, come over here Jack. . .” Henning gives a stiff wave, the only nonelected official to appear.
It’s over. Buddy Collette is playing. Jerry Brown is going home to prepare for the morning-after press conference. In 30 minutes, almost everyone is gone. Henning is standing around on the floor with a couple of labor cronies, figuring out where and when to go.
Upstairs, Richard Maullin, Brown’s fundraiser and voter analyst, is leaning over a teletype, checking the returns, still showing a four-point edge. He laughs at himself. “It’s over. I’ve squeezed every nickel out of ’em there is!” Tom Quinn, a little crocked, is hugging one woman staffer after another. “Congratulations, Tom . . . God, four and a half years it’s been!”
Of those young people — at first introspective, then politicized — who affected America in the Sixties Jerry Brown is the first to achieve high office. He entered politics as an alternate delegate on the antiwar McCarthy slate in the 1968 California primary, and his continuing ascension is due to the deep changes brought about by the Vietnam crisis. His gubernatorial victory is a direct result of Watergate. The son of a liberal governor who failed to survive the Sixties, Jerry Brown has managed to bring the traditional liberal Democrats into a hybrid coalition with the younger, more cultural, constituencies of the “new politics.” He is a mystic with a vest, a philosopher who goes for the jugular, a Yale man courting the white ethnics. Two weeks before the election was held, Time displayed him on the cover as the ideal symbol of new political trends, soon to be annointed a contender on the national scene at age 36.
The New Political Establishment
With Jerry Brown and others like him, a Vietnam-to-Watergate generation is coming on the political scene. They are as distinctive as the many Democratic groups who came to power after the New Deal and World War II and may as completely dominated the future of politics as did that earlier generation from Roosevelt to Ford. It’s the arriving political establishment which will set the new rules under which a disordered and floundering American system will operate. They are a vanguard of the status quo, the men — and some women — who see themselves as “modernizing rather than revolutionizing the social structure.”
Yet they are moved by a more open atmosphere and their vision is relatively free of Cold War myths. The U.S. can police the world; every upheaval is Communist aggression; America has unlimited material strength. Unlike the generation in 1945 who believed with Henry Luce in “an American Century,” these are politicians who accept the weakening of American power.
The new establishment also springs from an objective need: The system of rule established in the Thirties is now in a state of acute malfunction, if not total breakdown. Federal services created by the New Deal have been the focus of rising protests against welfare, public housing, urban renewal. The greedy interests that the New Deal was designed to curb have worked their way back into every branch of government — with defense contractors shuttling in and out of the Pentagon, Rockefeller associates sent to the State Department, business executives sitting on the very commissions that regulate their industries. The New Deal fiscal and monetary policies no longer seem able to prevent recession and inflation, and antitrust laws have not stopped the growth of centralized economic power symbolized by the emergence of multinational corporations in the Sixties.
On the psycho-spiritual level, Vietnam and Watergate and now the economic woes have undermined whatever consensus there was holding America together. A national majority for the first time in a generation doubts that America should try to be “number one” in the world. The desire for morality and traditional values is resulting in a sharp rise in the number of people defining themselves as “conservative.” The trend is to face our problems at home after a generation of chasing enemies abroad. Détente has weakened the foundations of repressive Cold War politics. Forty percent in a Gallup Poll want defense spending cut and only 12% want more, an almost complete reversal of 1960 figures. According to Louis Harris a drastic decline of “confidence in established leaders” set in from 1966 to 1973, leaving not a single leadership category with even 50% approval. The executive branch received 27% confidence, Congress 21, business leaders 27, labor leaders 15.
A new political reformation, the most important since the New Deal, is a predictable answer to this floundering of government. Reaction and repression are temporarily discredited and revolution is far off. Between these alternatives an urgent search is going on for a “new center” of ideas, rules of political economy and social programs as far-reaching as the New Deal.
Well before the 1974 election there were signs of a major redefinition of proper politics and national interests. Watergate was the most visible symbol of congressional challenge to executive arrogance. In many states candidates like Jerry Brown sought to appear candid by identifying with all sorts of political-reform measures and stances. The notion of “national security” was no longer sacred and the practice of leaking classified information became commonplace. For the first time since the Cold War began, congressional majorities opposed U.S. support of repressive governments such as South Vietnam, Cambodia and Chile. After substantial reductions in military aid to South Vietnam, Ford began warning that world peace itself might be threatened by a Congress whose younger members were breaking with the tradition of “bipartisan” foreign policy.
But the control of Congress by the “Dixiecrat-Republican” coalition it seems has ended. Nine senators and 51 representatives, mostly conservative, retired before the election because of age or Watergate-related troubles. The majority of new House members has been elected since 1968. The Senate liberal majority was strengthened in November, and the House will become decidedly more liberal since 30 of the 70 conservatives on the House Republican steering committee were beaten.
The trend is toward a new mainstream in politics. As pollster Louis Harris predicted two years ago in The Anguish of Change, “As 1976 approached, the chances were that, just as the face of the electorate had changed, so the faces of political leadership would change . . . The safety valve would be growing party reform.”
Many of the conflicts expressed in the streets in the Sixties have now spread within institutions in the Seventies, partly because of the growing up of that generation but more importantly because of the increased acceptance of what were labeled “New Left” positions a decade ago.
California is an ideal testing ground for such trends. It holds ten percent of the American population and contains all the necessary contradictions — the home of half the Nixon inner circle as well as a birthplace of the “new politics.” The antiwar, New Left forces of the Sixties can be credited with exposing, dividing and weakening the old centers of liberalism which were wedded to the war, wiping out the governor, G. Pat Brown, and bringing on Ronald Reagan in the process. In 1974 the state was the scene of a Watergate-derived controversy about Proposition 9, a political-reform measure, and Jerry Brown claimed to be a man of the new times.
If California is a testing ground, the Republicans have crashed as a political party. The state now has only 27% Republican registration, and only ten percent of the new 1974 voters signed up with them. The 1974 race marked the end of the Ronald Reagan era — the strange hold over California by such colorful paranoids as Max Rafferty, Sam Yorty and George Murphy. Reagan had largely failed to bring about the conservative revolution his rhetoric had promised. The state budget he vowed to “cut, squeeze and trim” in fact doubled from $4.6 billion to $10.2 billion, and a Los Angeles Times summary of the Reagan years concluded that “most of his legacy can be swept away as easily as if he had walked entirely on sand.” But he did manage to increase the economic misery of those in mental hospitals, crippled children’s wards and the universities, and it would be refreshing to no longer hear his sadistic quips (the environment: “Seen one redwood, you’ve seen ’em all”; Vietnam: “Let’s pave it”; foreign affairs: “When Africans have a man to lunch, they really have him to lunch”; Berkeley students: “Creeps”; Free-food recipients during the SLA period: “Let’s hope for an epidemic of botulism”).
The GOPS (as certain of the press corps call them) chose a member of their moderate wing, State Controller Houston I. Flournoy, to run the almost certain suicide course against Brown. Flournoy probably would not have been nominated were it not for the indictment of Lieutenant Governor Ed Reinecke, finally convicted in the case of ITT money being passed for the Republican convention in San Diego. Flournoy was handicapped by his party ties, status-quo record and Nixon fallout. The morning of his first important debate with Brown, for example, coincided with Ford’s pardon of Nixon. Flournoy would later blame the Nixon pardon for his failure.
Rather than defending Ford or Reagan policies, Flournoy tried to attack Brown on experience and personality factors, widely advertising, for instance, that he was a family man. He tried to resurrect the 1972 Republican ploy of organizing Democrats to oppose Brown as an extremist and interloper. And he tried hitting the “social issues” which worked against McGovern: no capital punishment, soft on marijuana, support of strikes and demonstrations. But it was a case of misunderstanding the forces at work. Powerful California Democrats were too hungry for a return to power to turn against Brown, though they distrusted his youth and asceticism. For many voters, when Flournoy called Brown immature, it translated into “young”; when he cited inexperience, it meant “fresh”; being unmarried meant “different”; demagogue meant “strong leadership.”
Flournoy seemed the perfect product of the system which now was beginning to flounder after a generation. A gray-flannel, chain-smoking, suburban type given to saying things like “Heya, Tiger” when he shook hands with old pals, he somehow thought the public would be impressed after Watergate with his “experience in politics.” He regularly cited having studied government at Cornell, taught government at Claremont College, practiced government in Washington and Sacramento, without seeming to know that in 1974 these were no qualifications for political office at all.
Flournoy’s difficulties were more than personal, more than Watergate in origin, for they reflected a trend of change in California. There is something more promising about the state than its image as the magnet for all of America’s neuroses. If the pop right wing is bigger than elsewhere, so is the left, in both its pop and real forms. If reactionary demagogues have been elected, they have also been defeated. In Southern California, target area for the Birch Society, voter registration has become largely Democratic.
The California which Flournoy nostalgically described as a land of opportunity is already vanishing. No more a cornucopia, California has used its resources to feed its fantasies. Three million wandering souls arrived in the era of G. Pat Brown for example, but today would-be immigrants are staying home or looking to Colorado and Oregon. California is once again a microcosm: from a symbol of our plenty it has become a symbol of our limits.
The Brown Phenomenon
Edmund G. Brown Jr., whose grandfather, a police captain, founded the San Francisco Police Academy and whose father was governor of California from 1959 to 1966, is an alienated son of liberalism. Old Pat was a gregarious Democratic politician, loving the spotlight of attention, always pushing Jerry, his three sisters and his mother Bernice onto the political stage but spending little time at home in privacy, with family. Did that drive Jerry into the seminary? “It’s a pretty fair answer,” the old governor observes today. “I don’t know how Jerry will be as a leader. When I was a kid I ran for president of everything, even when I wasn’t a member.”
After high school and a year at the University of Santa Clara in 1956, Jerry disappeared into four years of meditation at the Jesuits’ Sacred Heart Novitiate in Northern California. For over a year, he observed almost completed silence. “It was a pretty good social order,” he says today. “That much meditation will open your passages up.” “He had things constantly laid on him so he retreated into the seminary,” according to one aide. “He feels an extreme disenchantment with the world as it is. He’s ambivalent toward material possessions and not hard-line on private property since he renounced it in the seminary.”
The Jesuit vows were, first, to poverty, a complete detachment from material temptations. Translated into his present consciousness, he speaks of a public good which government must insure against rampant private greeds. The second key Jesuit commitment was obedience, both to a moral order and the Jesuit organization. Today he is driven to restore this order, to harmonize conflicting interests around a higher principle, and to subdue the “chaos” he sees in the world. Given these tendencies he might have been a priest instead of a politician were it not for ego. “I was too individualistic, I couldn’t take the complete suppression of the self,” he recalls.
His return to the outside world happened to coincide with the end of the silent, introspective Fifties and the beginning of the activism of the Sixties. Berkeley, where he majored in Latin and Greek, was his choice for school. Now Brown was baptized in the waters of what he calls “skepticism.” The student movement was beginning and Jerry, while touched by the social issues of the moment, could not commit or involve himself. He liked Slate, the radical student political party at. Berkeley, but never joined. He helped with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, running work camps on weekends in the fields. He urged his father to commute the death sentence on Caryl Chessman in 1960, and would later join a vigil against the 1967 execution of Aaron Mitchell at San Quentin. But always as an individual, never as a member of anything.
From Berkeley he went to Yale Law School. His reentry to the world was outwardly following the path of success and status. In looks and manner, Brown was typical of the young men who each year leave Yale (or Harvard) for the governmental, displomatic or corporate worlds, exuding an elite confidence that the institutions of America will be fine if only more intelligent and sophisiticated people — like themselves — are allowed to run them, which they usually do. It is no accident that Brown’s advisory circle is heavy with ambitious young Yale and Harvard men.
During a school break in ’63, he traveled to Mississippi to support the Civil Rights movement, his interest triggered by the Northern Student Movement headquartered in New Haven. While “just observing, as usual,” he remembers meeting black Civil Rights leaders like Bob Moses and Medgar Evers as well as Governor Ross Barnett, who promptly called his friend Governor Pat Brown, to warn that his son Jerry would be in trouble if he stayed. He didn’t.
From Yale he planned a law career, but first took six months off to “bum around” Latin America. He got slightly involved with the “Chile-California” program his father headed, an effort to train technicians and educators for the Christian Democratic Front of Eduardo Frei, then the CIA-supported liberal alternative to Salvador Allende and socialism. But mainly he drifted in Colombia and Mexico, seeing other realities.
He came back to join the prestigous Los Angeles law firm of Tuttle and Taylor, a relatively new corporate firm that seems to be composed mainly of young Yale and Harvard men. There, in addition to some clerking for the California Supreme Court, is where he stayed for the next five years. These ties, like those with members of other powerful law firms, became the basis for future contacts with the business community in the 1974 governor’s campaign. But at the time, Jerry Brown was still uncommitted to politics and one friend recalls him living “in rags” when not at the law firm, and driving a shambles of a car around the Silver Lake community where he lived.
His interest in Vietnam came early and one friend says he was “against it from the beginning.” Jerry was “hip to all those things, like Cardinal Spellman’s influence on the war, and he’d keep taking material to his father to read.” A split with his father, the governor, finally developed over the war. It had been simmering over Watts and the Free Speech Movement, but it became sharply defined over the Johnson versus McCarthy race in 1967-68. His father’s brand of liberalism was split and destroyed by the war. “We were seduced by LBJ,” Pat Brown now recalls. “Here was a Southerner, an oil man pushing things like Medicaid and civil rights. And we went along on Vietnam too, because we saw it as a parallel with Hitler’s aggression against small countries, which it wasn’t.” When the California Democratic Council (CDC) turned against LBJ and the War — the first Democrats to do so — “Jerry was their first big name, their front man, who did a lot of speaking.”
But Jerry carefully stayed away from demonstrations all those years — except for a brief march with the farmworkers — because of his quite visceral distaste for “disorder” and a belief in working “within the system” which somehow survived the Sixties unshaken. He speaks convincingly of being turned off by the heavy rhetoric and self-righteousness of campus radicals, some of it aimed at his father. While millions of people stomached these negatives to protest for what they believed, Brown could not square militant dissent with his theological, even temperamental, identification with order. “I accepted the traditional liberal Democratic view of change,” he says, and thus jumped at the opportunity afforded by the McCarthy campaign.
In 1969 he started running for office, choosing the Los Angeles Community College board where he topped 132 other candidates. One year later he was beginning the campaign for secretary of state, and by 1971 he was thinking of the governor’s office.
Along the way he picked up a dedicated band of staffers, mostly young, few of them linked with traditional Democratic circles, who provided certain qualities that he needed. A few women like Mary Jean Pew and Jane Bay — plus an odd number of lay Catholics from Immaculate Heart College — provided both administrative skills and conscience. Men like Tom Quinn and Richard Maullin were to round up the tough operatives and managers, and Quinn brought in an able press staff. His record as secretary of state is one of Brown’s better assets, and he uses it effectively with skeptical audiences, especially on the campuses. He brought a staff of diverse makeup to Sacramento and in two years managed to disturb the lobbies and the legislators by his disdain for becoming “one of the boys.” He sued Standard Oil, Gulf and Mobil to disclose their campaign financing. He drafted Proposition 9 with People’s Lobby and Common Cause. His office exposed Frank DcMarco for back-dating Nixon’s tax papers to gain a windfall profit. He sued to allow students to vote in their college communities when student political power was becoming an issue. He’ simplified the Voter’s Pamphlet and translated it into Spanish.
Brown used the dormant powers of an obscure office to attack the “special interests who are running amuck,” and displayed a keen ability to seize on issues which soon became popular. This continued into the 1974 Democratic primary where he was among the first politicians to speak at rallies for impeachment. But his instincts most clearly are seen in the Proposition 9 campaign.
Citizen Politics and Proposition 9
Proposition 9 — the California Political Reform Act — is perhaps the most concrete byproduct of Watergate in the elections of 1974. It shows both the potential and the limits of reform, reveals Brown at his best, and indicates two new trends which are growing amidst the decay of candidate politics: “citizen action” and the use of the initiative process to make law.
The Political Reform Act, which passed by a 7 to 3 margin in the June primary, seeks to expose and limit the influence of special-interest money on candidates and legislation. Proposition 9 requires disclosure of all contributions, thus opening a field day for investigative reporters and critics. Lobbyists are prohibited from making political contributions (though they can still do it by changing titles) and their expense accounts are drastically reduced — to “enough for two hamburgers and a Coke,” as Brown repeated over and over in the campaign.
The proposition was opposed by most of the state’s establishment, yet it carried with three million votes. It not only passed by 85 to 95% margins on campuses like Santa Barbara but, according to a Cory Poll, won approximately 65% of labor’s rank-and-file vote.
That this measure did better than apple pie, except in the mind of the old guard, can be explained by several factors, Watergate underlying all of them. One is the growing skill at initiative campaigns exemplified by People’s Lobby, a statewide group which originally drafted Proposition 9 in early 1973 and sent copies to various politicians.
As soon as Jerry Brown read the draft he called the group’s founders, Ed and Joyce Koupel, and said, “Hey, this is what I’ve been thinking about.” A series of meetings began in Brown’s secretary of state office to draft the initiative. “We decided to work together,” said Ed Koupel, “but we were going ahead whatever, though. Brown’s people knew we could do it, but they were afraid we were flaky.” This alliance says something about Brown, for indeed the Koupels arc “flaky” — if that means utterly fanatical and unceremonious.
Added to this unlikely combination was another emerging force, Common Cause, with 65,000 members in Califo