One of the final states Jerry Brown carried in his last of three failed presidential campaigns was Vermont, whose junior senator, Bernie Sanders, now finds himself in California in the final weeks – barring an upheaval – of his own insurgent presidential bid.
Similarities between the two politicians are many, and they go beyond the Clinton name their rivals share.
Like Sanders, Brown came on unexpectedly strong in 1992. He crusaded against money in politics and set up an “800” number to raise small donations for his campaign. He opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement and supported universal health care.
At the time, Brown was listing heavily to the left – so far, in fact, that within five years he would reject the identification of Sanders, a Democratic socialist, as a liberal.
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“No,” Brown said when asked about Sanders on CNN’s “Crossfire” in 1997, according to a transcript. “Bernie Sanders voted for the crime bill and that is highly dubious. It’s an assertion of great state power. You know, today you can’t even get on an airplane without having, in effect, an internal passport. The state is taking more and more power, more secrets.”
To look at Brown now, Sanders might make the same assessment. While Sanders rails against Wall Street and champions such liberal causes as universal health care and free tuition at public colleges and universities, Brown has tempered his politics. His unwillingness to spend more freely on social services has disheartened liberal members of the Legislature, while his support for hydraulic fracturing has infuriated environmentalists otherwise supportive of Brown’s record on climate change.
On Monday night in Sacramento, thousands of Sanders supporters erupted when Sanders said, “Now is the time to ban fracking in America.”
It is unclear what Brown thinks of Sanders now.
Brown joked last month that “as one of the superdelegates” to the Democratic National Convention, he was “super interested” in the primary campaign. But when asked whether he supported Clinton or Sanders, Brown said he was still “assessing the full range” of options.
For his part, Sanders said Monday that Brown has “done a good job” as governor.
He was standing in a locker room near the stands at Bonney Field, which shook with supporters screaming his name.
Asked if he caucused for Brown in Vermont in 1992, Sanders said, “I honestly don’t remember.”