Why Brown Will Release a Policy Plan

Jerry Brown, the Democratic nominee for governor, is mocking the idea of putting out a plan for how he'll fix the state's fiscal troubles -- and his opponent, Meg Whitman, is blasting him for refusing to be more specific.

Here's some advice for voters: you can ignore this conversation about plans. Because Brown will eventually put out a plan -- a plan that you can ignore.

In fact, the Brown episode shows the two purposes of campaign plans.

1. Carping about their absence. Reporters love to demand that candidates produce a plan, since the non-production of the plan fills pages and blogs and is an easy issue to monitor. Candidates either have a plan or they don't, and reporters write about how they don't until they do.

2. Ignoring them once they're produced. That's right -- once plans come out, reporters can safely ignore them and not write about their substance, since so few voters will read the plans, much less care.

Look for Brown to bow to this reality and put out a plan that doesn't offer much in the way of policy but repeats various poll-tested phrases about the need to be frugal in budgeting and to create jobs. And then look for reporters to never write about the plans again. (If you need an example of this dynamic, look no further than the plan Brown already has put out -- a plan on renewable energy. Read any detailed appraisals of it yet).

Now, of course, if someone wanted to govern this state and fix the budget, he or she would put out a detailed, difficult plan and try to build public support. But that's way too high-risk for candidates, who see their first duty as winning.

So they choose avoidance. (Another take on the same subject is offered by the LA Times' Evan Halper here.)

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