Stop Being So Mean to Dear Old Jerry!


Quick! Somebody get Gov. Brown a pillow and a glass of warm milk.

Because people -- especially wealthy civil rights lawyer Molly Munger and her Prop 38 campaign -- are being mean, terribly mean about Brown's treasured temporary tax ballot initiative, Prop 30.

That's the message from a letter sent by supporters of the Brown measure -- California's two U.S. senators and Democratic legislative leaders -- to Munger's campaign.

The letter accuses Prop 38 of going negative against Prop 30, and suggests -- the following is not a joke -- that Munger agree to a "Positive Campaign Compact." That is, Prop 38 won't say anything bad about Prop 30, and Prop 30 won't say anything bad about Prop 38.

Let the voters decide.

Prop 38 quickly rejected this overture -- and with good reason, since it's hard to take seriously a call for positive campaigning that's received in a negative letter accusing you of negative attacks. But Brown's backers aren't giving up their push for being nice.

To add to the absurdity of politicians with long histories of negative campaigning demanding that people be nice, the Prop 30 campaign sent out an email to supporters reiterating the points of the letter and demanding that Prop 38 play nice.

Naturally, the email was signed by the brilliant veteran political operative Ace Smith, who has forgotten more about negative campaigning than almost any human being alive will ever know.

What's next -- asking Attorney General Kamala Harris to file elder abuse charges against Munger for how she's treated the 74-year-old governor?

It's enough to make you wish shamelessness and irony could be taxed. California could balance its budget then.

The Prop 30 plea for peace would be easier to take seriously if Brown hadn't spent his term in office dismissing, often in very negative terms, the ideas of virtually anyone in California with an approach to the budget difference than his. His whole campaign is a bum's rush -- you have to embrace my idea, all the other ideas are either bad or unrealistic politically.

Now he wants those whose ideas he's dismissed to play nice?

Here's a cynical prediction: Brown and his allies are putting this out because Prop 38 is gaining some strength in polls (though it remains behind), and because they need to justify what likely will be their own sustained attacks on the measure.

And finally, a word of advice to California's two senators, Democrats Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, who signed the letter asking Munger to back off.

You might be wise to stay out of this ballot fight, just to avoid embarassment.

Someone might ask why, after 20 years in office, you're backing Brown's meager measure even though it merely maintains the current austerity levels of spending and may make the budget worse long-term by locking into the constitution certain revenues for local government.  

After two decades, don't the two of you have anything better to contribute to the discussion of how to fix California than simply asking Molly Munger to play nice?

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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