Fresh from the long Memorial Day weekend, comes welcome news that California Governor Jerry Brown has finally endorsed Hillary Clinton. Okay, “welcome” is not quite the word, but Jerry’s “Open Letter to California Democrats and Independents” does lay out his reasons for falling in line with virtually every other elected Democrat in the state, from the mayor and city councilmembers here in Los Angeles, to nearly all members of Congress, including both senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, and now both the governor and lieutenant governor. Only one brave soul locally, Councilmember Gil Cedillo, demurs.
Jerry's letter tells a tale, does it not? It may reside on his website and ride atop his signature, but it clearly could have been—and perhaps even was—written by Clinton campaign functionaries. First, there’s the faint-hearted praise for Bernie’s efforts to bring inequality to the fore. Then there’s the fairly preposterous statement that “Hillary Clinton has convincingly made the case that she knows how to get things done and has the tenacity and skill to advance the Democratic agenda.”
After following the news closely for many years, I know Hillary Clinton has been a major figure on the national stage for a quarter century, riding her husband’s coattails at first but then stepping out on her own. And I know she has occupied high office as New York senator and Obama’s first secretary of state. But I’m always at a loss to know what anyone not associated with her campaign thinks she’s accomplished beyond holding down those cushy seats. Indeed, as we’ve seen during this campaign, she has mostly had to backtrack on statements she has made over the years—not accomplishments, just positions she has taken—on trade, marriage equality, bringing black boys to heel, invading Iraq, you name it. And the Secretary of State who replaced her, John Kerry, seems to be doing a much better job with much less fuss.
Embroiled in her second flailing campaign for president, she has arduously forged ahead, making one misstep after another on the campaign trail as she alienates voters in droves rather than drawing them to her.
Then there’s this business of tenacity and skill. No doubt she’s tenacious. Now embroiled in her second flailing campaign for president, she has arduously forged ahead, making one misstep after another on the campaign trail as she alienates voters in droves rather than drawing them to her. Don’t believe me? Then tell me why her opponent, Bernie Sanders, draws thousands of people to several rallies a day in towns small and large across the state, while poor Hillary—and even her husband Bill—struggle to fill high school gymnasiums far less often.
True, Hillary has admitted that she’s not a natural politician, not like her husband or Barack Obama. But isn’t that a little like your airline captain admitting that,“With this fear of heights and my little bit of claustrophobia, I'm not a natural pilot?” And, indeed, while Clinton can masterfully work backroom deals with the rich and connected, she clearly can’t rally everyday people to her cause. Where would that leave her as president?
Then Jerry’s dispiriting note repeats some distortions about the current status of the race and the impossibility of anybody but Hillary being nominated, adding that if California doesn’t go for Clinton, Donald Trump will be president—and just what a disaster that will be, the standard “devil painted on the wall” Clinton’s backers trot out.
So it's time for Democrats to stop fighting each other, Jerry tells us, meaning that the thousands upon thousands of Californians who have rallied to Bernie’s cause should grow up, shape up, and eat their peas. No point in even conducting this vote next week.
But down Interstate 80 from Jerry’s vantage in Sacramento to Oakland, Californians have a very different story to tell. The Sanders campaign claims 20,000 people attended Bernie’s Memorial Day rally there, though various reports say that the Oakland Police Department estimates the crowd at up to 60,000—if that’s true, it’s a wonder a baseball game didn’t break out.
Add that to 9,800 in Ventura, 8,000 in Carson, 5,000 in Fresno….place after place, sometimes three times a day, day after day leading up to June 7th. All ages and races, but many of them young—the young people who will control California’s politics for the next half century.
Isn’t it a puzzle why the state’s political class falls so uniformly behind Clinton's campaign when the state’s youth are chanting for Sanders.
Jerry has nothing personal to gain by endorsing or not endorsing Hillary. Nor do Boxer or Feinstein, who have been so dismissive of their fellow senator. They’re all just playing out the string, with no more terms to seek. Probably they’re just locked into the established order of things, and that’s precisely what Hillary is—the established order, the anointed one.
Younger local electeds, like Jose Huizar and Eric Garcetti and Xavier Becerra—and dozens beside them—are part of the established order as well, looking to see if they can slide into a prominent perch in a Clinton administration, or make their move to the next rung, from Council to Assembly, from State Senate to Congress. But that’s a darned short-sighted view if the hundreds of thousands of young Sanders supporters decide to keep score.
Only a very few brave souls are holding out. Neither Nancy Pelosi nor Barbara Lee has endorsed, though with Pelosi, it’s likely only a matter of time before that shoe drops. Then there’s Gil Cedillo, our own city councilmember, who jumped up early to support Sanders, rallying for him yesterday in MacArthur Park with a traveling band of entertainers. But Gil’s a working class guy, a union organizer, a salt-of-the-earth fellow, apparently a renegade. You’d expect some moxie from him.
The rest? Well, some of us not-so-young folks will be keeping score as well.
Editor, LA Progressive