Waiting for Jerry to Get His Groove Back

For months now, we've been waiting for Democratic Governor Jerry Brown to drop the other shoe--the outraged shoe.

He spent most of his first year as governor the second time around sweet talking a few Republicans into doing the "right thing," namely voting to enable placement of a ballot proposal that would extend several taxes.

They toyed with him. In the end, Brown was odd man out, never tempting a single Republican to defect while ticking off many in his own party with timid behavior.

The old Jerry Brown (1975-1983) would have never stood for such meekness.

He would have scolded legislators for behaving selfishly at a time of great need, berating them for protecting monied interests.

He would have lambasted corporate California for thinking of profits first, good government second.

He would have chided civil servants for not appreciating the virtue of "psychic income" in place of wage increases.

The old Jerry Brown was not afraid to burn bridges if the cause was right.

Back in those days, many in the legislature hated him because he didn't buy into sacred cows and honor deference. His were the first vetoes to be overturned in decades, but the vetoes were principled.

Nowadays, we have a nuanced governor.

He vetoed a farmworkers organizing bill because he wasn't sure of its necessity. Given his strong past support of farmworkers' rights, it's hard to understand why he would desert them.

He vetoed a bill that would have declared crimes against homeless people a "hate crime," even though Brown has built his career on defending the oppressed.

He's refused to demand serious budget reform such as an overhaul of Proposition 13, even though Brown opposed it when the proposition went before the voters in 1978 and understands the $500 billion in revenue losses to state and local governments ever since.

There's no denying it--the new Jerry Brown is a lot different than the old Jerry Brown.

Whether you agreed with him (and many didn't), the old Jerry Brown stood tall for what he believed and didn't mince words. He often lost when he drew those lines in the sand, but you knew on which side he stood.

Now he's more polished, more mature, more parsed, more understanding, and, less than a year after he assumed office, more marginalized as a major player.

Come to think of it, it might not be so bad to have a little of the old Jerry Brown barking again.

With some of the famous outrage, at least Brown might help people understand the stakes with the stark messages he knows how to deliver.

Maybe it's time for Jerry to get his groove back. Maybe that might shake the public and other leaders out of their malaise. 

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