The West is the best: Is Jerry Brown the anti-Reagan?

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Adam Nagourney writes for The New York Times: “When Jerry Brown became governor of California again, three years ago, this state was on a steep decline, crushed by budget deficits, deep spending cuts, governmental paralysis, high unemployment and a collapsing housing market. California, a place that once symbolized promise and opportunity, seemed caught in an intractable reversal of fortune.”

But today:

“The state’s budget problems are largely resolved, at least for the short term. Mr. Brown is the dominant figure in Sacramento, strengthened by overwhelming Democratic control of the Legislature and the decline of the Republican Party.”

Will Jerry Brown bring final destiny to California? Is Jerry Brown the anti-Reagan? Because this is not over.

Reagan was governor of California during the high hippie days, from 1967-1975, and was followed by Brown in his first term. Reagan was a WW II icon, but that generation is rapidly slipping away. 

And today, so too the “moral majority” that boosted him to the presidency yields to time and political generations. Brown, dubbed “Governor Moonbeam” in the '60s, was an archetypal figure for '60s California. I happened to pass through the Summer of Love in August 1967 on my way to Vietnam. 

Truth is, in 45-year hindsight, it seems to California’s specific culture and history a true and unique happening. It was a “creation myth” for California, a free and original awakening for California as the Alamo was to Texas and the Boston Tea Party was to Massachusetts and New England. Woodstock was just a shadowy knockoff two years later.

California rises again with Brown, and it should come as no surprise. California brings the final destiny of our American journey, the final edge of expectation, the end and then the beginning again, the place and time of our American turning. Steve Jobs put it succinctly at the end: “The spaceship has landed.” 

I asked an astute Californian about Brown’s prospects for national office. He said he will be too old in 2016. But Brown, Zen man of contemporary politics, is in a sense timeless. At 75 he is much the individual he was at 30. And he will likely still be into his '80s.

New York has one foot stuck in the old worlds: Poland, Russia, Ireland, Italy. It is unbearably linked to its pasts. But true Californians, like true Texans, have made a greater journey, across the desert and across time to a new age and a new world. The west is America’s future, marked by the big states of Texas and California. Our destiny will be formed there and across the Pacific in the centuries ahead, as it was formed in Boston and New York and across the Atlantic in centuries past.

Governor Moonbeam could be the gatekeeper.