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Trailblazer: A Biography of Jerry Brown

Chuck McFadden
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In this first biography of Edmund Gerald Brown Jr. in more than thirty years, Chuck McFadden explores the unique persona of one of the most idiosyncratic politicians in California history. Son of California political royalty who forged his own political style against the tumultuous backdrop of a huge, balkanized state-and shoved to and fro by complex currents-Jerry Brown plumbed his visionary impulses as well as his grandiose ambitions. McFadden traces Brown's childhood in San Francisco, his time studying for the priesthood, his unusual political career, and his romances-including a long-term relationship with singer Linda Ronstadt. He describes Brown's first two terms as governor advocating for farm workers, women and minorities, his time roaming the world in a spiritual quest, and his return to the gritty world of politics as chairman of the California Democratic Party and then mayor of Oakland. Political experts weigh in with thoughts about the remarkable 2010 campaign that saw the 72-year-old Brown winning his third term in office while being vastly outspent by Republican Meg Whitman. Concise, insightful, and enlivened by the events and personalities that colored the history of California,Trailblazerprovides an intimate portrait of the pugnacious, adept politician who has bucked national trends to become a leader of one of the largest economies in the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95501-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION: The Comeback Codger
    (pp. 1-14)

    Three thousand people crowded into Sacramento’s cavernous old Memorial Auditorium on the sunny morning of January 3, 2011, all eager to witness a century-and-a-half-old ceremony. Most of the state’s political establishment was there. The VIP list included Gray Davis, the cautious former governor who was recalled in 2003;¹ seated next to him was Arnold Schwarzenegger, smiling broadly as he enjoyed his last few minutes as governor of California, although within six months he would face horrific personal scandal. Next to him was his glamorous wife, Maria Shriver. Nearby was Gavin Newsom, the handsome mayor of San Francisco who had been...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Early Years: Politics and Religion
    (pp. 15-34)

    Californians in 1938 were busy. In Hollywood, producer David Selznick was masterminding a nationwide search for the young woman who would play Scarlett O’Hara in the forthcoming supercolossal epicGone with the Wind.(There were salacious rumors that he was conducting part of his talent hunt on the casting couch.) In the hills above Berkeley, Ernest Orlando Lawrence was working on his atom-smashing cyclotron, a scientific advance that would win him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1939 and contribute to the development of the atomic bomb. TheSan Francisco Chronicleand theExaminercarried headlines about distant war in...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Going Statewide: Learning the Ropes and Hunting Headlines
    (pp. 35-57)

    Just as Jerry had begun to settle into life in Los Angeles, his father found himself in the political fight of his life, scrambling to retain his governorship against a Hollywood actor named Ronald Reagan. The election that followed had repercussions that echoed down the years for Jerry Brown and all California politicians.

    From the conventional political standpoint of the mid-1960s, even with its revolution against societal norms, Reagan was regarded by Pat Brown and his inner circle as an impossible candidate;movie starsdid not run for office, even in celebrity-struck California. The famous, but probably apocryphal, story has...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Big Show
    (pp. 58-78)

    Carrying with him a strong, Catholic-inspired sense of moral rectitude and a rapidly developing sense of how to practice statewide politics, Jerry Brown became California’s secretary of state on January 4, 1971. He was thirty-two years old and fired with ambition. Even as he settled into his new job, he and a few confidants were assessing the tactics they would use to win the governorship in four years.

    It was not an unrealistic goal. Jerry occupied a statewide office with hitherto unrealized potential for creating positive headlines, and he was most certainly prepared to take advantage of it. He had...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Romance, Flip-Flops, and Moonbeams
    (pp. 79-100)

    Early in March 1976, barely past the first year of his administration, Jerry was riding high in the polls. Californians liked the continuing shake-up he had brought to Sacramento. And then, amid all the presumably important things going on in his still-young administration, Jerry Brown announced he was running for president. In the annals of “I’m running for president” announcements, few could come close to Brown’s off hand approach.

    His announcement, such as it was, came late on a Friday afternoon in March 1976 during a chat with three reporters he had invited into his office for coffee. Doug Willis,...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Back and Forth: Zen and Politics
    (pp. 101-117)

    Out of statewide office for the first time in twelve years, defeated in two presidential bids and one try for the U.S. Senate, Jerry Brown in 1983 contemplated a future that seemed to hold little promise of a political comeback. The unsuccessful Senate campaign against Pete Wilson was a strong indication that Brown had simply gone out of fashion. Fickle voters had grown weary of Moonbeam.

    The new governor, George Deukmejian, was in some respects the anti-Brown. He had defeated Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley by waging a successful law-and-order campaign against retired policeman Bradley. Deukmejian, in fact, had conducted...

  10. Plates
    (pp. None)
  11. CHAPTER SIX The Governor-Turned-Mayor and Marriage
    (pp. 118-135)

    Brown in 1998 saw a golden pathway ahead for a return to elective politics. Elihu Harris, the two-term incumbent mayor of Jerry’s adopted hometown of Oakland, had decided to run for the Assembly, where he had previously served for six terms.¹ There was an opening, and Jerry seized it.

    Political observers around San Francisco Bay recognized that Brown’s ambition was always simmering below the surface, even when he was not a candidate and even when he was engaged in intellectual exploration. “His community involvement seems to have revolved entirely around his plan to run for mayor . . . in...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN The Remarkable Election
    (pp. 136-155)

    Jerry Brown had at least four significant advantages as he embarked on his 2010 campaign to regain the governor’s office. First, his Democratic Party held a robust plurality of registered voters and favorable demographics. The California secretary of state’s office reported that as of September 8, 2010, there were 16,993,075 registered voters in the state. Democrats had about 7.6 million registrants, or 44.08 percent; Republicans, 5.3 million, or 31 percent; and “decline to state” or independents, slightly more than 3.4 million, or 20.25 percent. Minor parties made up the rest.¹

    A longtime and astute student of state politics, California state...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT Difficult Choices
    (pp. 156-176)

    It was not always articulated precisely, but from taxicab drivers in Long Beach to computer programmers in Silicon Valley, there was a question on the minds of Californians as they and their governor entered the second decade of the twenty-first century: Can we ever get this end-of the-rainbow place back on track? Jerry Brown and his constituents had little to cheer about. The Golden State was tarnished. Its economy was limping, its people were uncertain, and its deeply polarized politics resembled theology more than civics.

    Poll after poll showed heavy majorities believing their state was in decline. The Field Poll...

    (pp. 177-180)

    By the early morning hours of November 7, 2012, the word had spread among California political types still awake: Jerry Brown had scored a huge personal political triumph, perhaps the biggest in his long political career outside his repeated campaigns for governor. Proposition 30, the six-billion-dollar sales and income tax increase measure he championed against heavy odds, had won. Not only had it won, but it had won decisively by a 53.9 to 46.1 percent margin. The man who had flip-flopped on Proposition 13 in 1978—the master of the empty, crowd-pleasing gesture—had made a daring gamble on what...

    (pp. 181-196)
    (pp. 197-198)
  17. NOTES
    (pp. 199-214)
    (pp. 215-218)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 219-230)