California Gov. Jerry Brown On The Power Of Outsider Politics Discontent and skepticism are central to this presidential campaign, says Gov. Jerry Brown, who ran an idealistic, outsider presidential campaign in 1992 but has governed California as a pragmatist.
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California Gov. Jerry Brown On The Power Of Outsider Politics

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California Gov. Jerry Brown On The Power Of Outsider Politics

California Gov. Jerry Brown On The Power Of Outsider Politics

California Gov. Jerry Brown On The Power Of Outsider Politics

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/487798908/487815074" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Wednesday. Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images hide caption

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Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, has been in politics since the 1960s, and launched multiple runs for president himself.

In 1992, he ran as the outsider candidate — chastising the incumbent parties that had "failed their duty."

"They've placed their own interest about the national interest," he said during the speech that kicked off his campaign. They've allowed themselves to be trapped and in some cases corrupted by the powerful forces of greed. It's time for them go!"

Today, Brown says that anti-establishment energy is central to the current presidential campaign — not just for Bernie Sanders, he argues, but Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as well.

"Everybody who's running for office in some way has to capture the mood of discontent and skepticism about the incumbent party," he tells NPR's Audie Cornish.

"Certainly Mr. Trump is gonna try to capture as much of that as he can. But if you look at the two of them, Trump is the fellow who stiffed his subcontractors, went through bankruptcy and has focused his whole life on making money, or having a television show, or running a beauty pageant," Brown says. "When you contrast that with Hillary's vast experience, the choice couldn't be clearer."

Although Clinton supporters have repeatedly made that argument, she still needs to present herself in a way that convinces more skeptical voters, Brown acknowledges.

Looking ahead, Brown says Democrats must engage in "creative intervention" — in areas such as the minimum wage, family leave, childcare and education — to ensure the party doesn't lose working-class voters forever.

Use the audio link above to hear the full conversation.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now, earlier today I spoke with California Governor Jerry Brown about what Hillary Clinton hopes to achieve with tonight's speech. He has been in politics since the 1960s and even launched multiple runs for president himself. And then in 1992, he ran as the outsider candidate. And I played him a clip of the speech that kicked off that campaign.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JERRY BROWN: The leaders of Washington's incumbent party, both Democrats and Republicans, have failed their duty. They've placed their own interests above the national interests. They have allowed themselves to be trapped and in some cases corrupted by the powerful forces of greed. It's time for them to go.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

CORNISH: It seems like you were really channeling that anti-establishment energy that we heard again this year. And what are the parallels you see today?

BROWN: Well, that was said right here in Philadelphia just a few blocks from where we're sitting. And the perspective is that Washington is captured by all these alien forces and that we the people have to take it back. That was part of the message of Bernie Sanders, but it's also increasingly part of the message of Hillary Clinton. And it's a perennial.

CORNISH: It's also a message from Donald Trump - right? - in many ways.

BROWN: Well, because it is the message, so everybody who's running for office in some way has to capture the mood of discontent and skepticism about the incumbent party, which, by the way, is Republican in the Congress, Democrat in the White House. Certainly Mr. Trump is going to try to capture as much of that as he can.

But if you look at the two of them, Trump is the fellow who stiffed his subcontractors, went through bankruptcy and has focused his whole life on making money or having a television show or running a beauty pageant. So when you contrast that with Hillary's vast experience, the choice couldn't be clearer.

CORNISH: You know, you're pointing out an argument that we're hearing from Democrats over and over about Hillary Clinton's resume compared to Donald Trump's, that there's not a comparison there. But the race is close. This is not some sort of cakewalk for her right now.

BROWN: No, not at all. It's a very competitive race, and...

CORNISH: But does that mean that argument is not working?

BROWN: Well, it - look; I think this campaign is a real boost, and she definitely has to present herself in a way that touches those more skeptical voters.

CORNISH: People have been talking a lot this election cycle about the white, working-class vote and the support there for Republicans. Have Democrats lost this group forever?

BROWN: Well, it's always this - it's a concern. The non-college-graduate, a real foundation of the American society, has not done well in the global environment of more and more trade, the technology that's transforming our economy. Everybody knows that the globalization increases overall wealth, but it does increase overall inequality. Then the question is, how do you deal with that?

Well just more unconstrained capitalism is not going to help the white working class or the black working class or anybody that isn't in the hallways of power and affluence - so I say a creative intervention in the minimum wage, on family leave, on childcare, on good schools, on all that part of the public sector that enriches life.

CORNISH: People talk about Democrats having to get voter turnout from what they call the Obama coalition, a multi-racial coalition of voters. You come from a state where the demographics are favorable to Democrats in some ways. And are Democrats kind of relying on that?

BROWN: You know, you can't really rely on micro-targeting to chop and dice the American people into little categories that you then appeal to very specific, tailored messages. There has to be an overarching vision for America that we're all a part of. We're not all just demographics, and there's a lot of that.

You know, these terms like boomer, gen X, millennial - these are advertising terms. And as a political person, you have to think in much larger terms than advertising. You have to think in the human experience of America, our history, our future together. And I think Hillary is in a very strong position to do that.

CORNISH: Governor Jerry Brown, thank you so much for speaking with us.

BROWN: OK, thank you very much.

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