THE SANTA CLARA
January 9, 2014
I do not believe for a moment that California’s thrice-elected governor will seek the Democratic nomination for president of the United States in 2016.
But he should.
Even without attempting to win, Gov. Jerry Brown’s entry into the race would make an interesting contest out of what would otherwise be a Clinton coronation, and be a boon to those who want to advance progressive policies in the United States.
Right now, the Democratic Party’s lineup is predictable and boring. Just as in 2008, Hillary Clinton is the presumed frontrunner, riding high on little more than name recognition. Even Vice President Joe Biden, seemingly in a prime position to win the nomination, trails Clinton considerably in the polls.
Furthermore, no other potential Democratic Party nominees are garnering much interest. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper are unknown to most voters outside their states. If someone has heard of former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, it’s probably for his most famous campaign advertisement in which he spends the entire time shooting clay pigeons.
Put in sports terms, the Democratic Party bench seriously lacks depth.
A “Brown for President” campaign would be the shot in the arm needed to get the Democratic Party interested in their own primary.
Brown has run for president before. His three previous attempts — 1976, 1980 and 1992 — saw relative success, but the timing wasn’t right. While this might be seen as a strike against Brown, it is actually to his (and his party’s) benefit.
Bill Clinton’s main opponent in the 1992 primaries was Brown. While Bill and Hillary Clinton are different people, the media would immediately characterize the race as a Brown versus Clinton rematch, bringing intensity and interest to an otherwise boring affair.
Whether or not Brown would honestly want to win, his mere presence would require Clinton to up her game. Most pundits agree that the lengthy battle between Clinton and then-Senator Barack Obama in 2008 helped prepare the president for the general election. If Brown were to run, he could be a similar sparring partner for Clinton.
There are others who can bring much of the same to the table. However, while those other possibilities might be similar in some areas, Brown is the only one who embodies all of the qualities in today’s Democratic Party. He has the right history, record and temperament to give Clinton a run for her money, or at least be a better nominee.
Moreover, Brown would represent the voice of success for the Obama administration, and the 2016 election will undoubtedly be a referendum on President Obama. While Clinton served a term as Secretary of State, Republicans will attempt to make this work against her. Already, they have been hitting her on the attack in Benghazi, Libya and even on the rollout of Obamacare.
Brown, however, has spent his recent term as governor making California a laboratory for Obama’s priorities. Whether it is more reliance on renewable energy, moderate new gun control laws or an increase in the minimum wage, Brown has championed many of the same policies as Obama.
California is also one of only 14 states to fully embrace Obamacare.
Brown can run on a narrative of not only how much California’s economy has turned around during his term, but also how he has proven that he can effectively administer the same goals that Obama has advocated, and that those policies are the right thing to do.
Were it not for his age (he’ll turn 78 in 2016), Brown would already be considered a lock to run in 2016. And Brown does not come without baggage, most notably trouble with prison realignment.
Yet, the point is that he needn’t run to win; he only needs to run at all to have a major impact on the next decade of American politics.
Clinton could quickly become the face of the worst of Obama’s term. Brown can be a voice for the best.
Jonathan Tomczak is a senior political science and history double major and editor of the Opinion section.