Hillary Clinton

Gov. Jerry Brown Offers Tepid Endorsement of Hillary Clinton One Week Before California Primary

The governor who was the 1992 version of Bernie Sanders and thorn-in-Bill-Clinton's side goes mainstream and backs the frontrunner.



California Governor Jerry Brown has endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president in an "open letter" on his personal website, one week before voters go to the polls in the state's primary.

Real Clear Politics' average of five major polls puts Clinton eight percentage points ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has insisted he will take his insurgent campaign all the way to July's Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. FiveThirtyEight currently gives Clinton a 96 percent chance of winning the Golden State's primary, which combined with the superdelegates who have pledged to vote for her at the convention would clinch the nomination for Clinton. 

In his endorsement, Gov. Brown wrote that he is "deeply impressed with how well Bernie Sanders has done" running "a similar campaign" to the one he ran against Clinton's husband, Bill, in 1992. Brown praised Sanders' focus on income inequality but ultimately decided that uniting behind Clinton "is the only path forward to win the presidency and stop the dangerous candidacy of Donald Trump." 

Reason's Matt Welch noted earlier this year that Brown's 1992 protest-campaign for president was more than similiar to Sanders' when it came to apocalyptic invocations of "corrupt money" and society collapsing over income inequality. Brown essentially wrote Sanders' left-wing populist presidential playbook (which was also aped by Ralph Nader, several times) more than two decades ago.

However, as Reason's Jesse Walker wrote in The American Conservative, Brown has worn many political faces throughout his very long political career, which includes two stints as governor four decades apart. Even in 1992, as Brown was tacking hard-left, he proposed a flat tax and abolishing the Department of Education, two positions it's hard to imagine Vermont's celebrity democratic socialist taking on. 

It should also be noted — given the near-panic in mainstream Democratic circles over "Bernie Bros" not dutifully lining up behind Clinton fast enough — that Brown never endorsed Bill Clinton in 1992, and despite losing handily in the primaries, Brown continued his campaign all the way to the convention.

There's also a palpable anxiety among mainstream Democrats that Sanders supporters will disrupt what the party hopes will be a perfectly choreographed love-fest in support of Clinton in Philadelphia, and not a repeat of what Brown's supporters did in 1992 when they interrupted Hillary Clinton's speech with "Let Jerry Speak!" chants. 

For those who think the 2016 Democratic campaign has been somehow exceptionally divisive and potentially harmful to "party unity," watch then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton point his finger at Brown and tell him, "You're not worth being on the same platform as my wife."