Jerry Brown, a strikingly successful and popular governor in his own state of California whose approach is often held up as a model for Democrats nationally, refused and refused and refused to endorse a candidate during the course of the long race for the party’s presidential nomination. Brown, whose three previous bids for the presidency suggested to some that he might harbor an interest in one last run, and whose relations with front-runner Hillary Clinton had not always been good, kept on the sidelines. Until now.
With one week to go before the critical California primary, the governor has provided Clinton with one of the most important endorsements of the 2016 race. She offers, Brown states in blunt language, “the only path forward to win the presidency and stop the dangerous candidacy of Donald Trump.”
The endorsement is not important because of what it says about Clinton’s candidacy; Brown’s words are respectful, but not particularly impassioned. Rather, it matters because at this late stage in the Democratic competition the governor has delivered a reasoned and knowing argument for a political figure whom Brown once criticized so aggressively that Bill Clinton told the Californian in 1992, “You’re not worth being on the same platform with my wife.”
Brown’s case for Hillary Clinton in 2016 is unlikely to impress ardent supporters of Clinton’s rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who has surged in recent California polling and who is drawing large crowds at rallies across the state. Sanders backers will stick with Sanders when the state votes on June 7; in fact, a substantial number of them have already cast early ballots for the progressive challenger.
But Brown still speaks to Sanders supporters in an “Open Letter to California Democrats and Independents” that was posted online Tuesday morning, as he does to voters who might be leaning toward an insurgent campaign that feels in some ways like the governor’s own late-stage bid to upset Jimmy Carter’s march to the Democratic nomination in 1976 and in other ways like the governor’s outsider bid for the Democratic nod in 1992.
“I have closely watched the primaries and am deeply impressed with how well Bernie Sanders has done,” writes Brown. “He has driven home the message that the top one percent has unfairly captured way too much of America’s wealth, leaving the majority of people far behind. In 1992, I attempted a similar campaign.”