Jerry Brown’s Secret Weapon

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If Jerry Brown manages to reach agreement with legislative Republicans to place a sizable portion of his temporary tax extension  proposal on the ballot this fall, it may be due to his charm more than any logic.

This is not the brash, quippy governor of 1975, when he was elected at the age of 36; rather, 36 years later, Brown is attempting to respectfully reason and dialogue with his legislative counterparts in a way that many, if not all haven't seen while serving in Sacramento.

A little history would serve us well.

When Arnold Schwarzenegger served as governor, he treated legislators more like bit players in a movie than members of a co-equal branch of government. Once, when the legislature refused to pass a budget he proposed, Schwarzenegger called them "girlie men" for their cowardice. After that, the relationship between the governor and the legislature went down hill, and fast.

Gray Davis had a similar attitude as governor. One year after he submitted his budget proposal to the legislature in a tough economy, Davis refused to bargain and said instead that "the job of the legislature is to implement my (Davis's) vision." No friends made there. Three years later when Davis was the subject of an historical recall, his Democratic colleagues were eerily quiet about his defense.

Note that the political party of the governor didn't matter. Manners did.

Jerry Brown has taken a different path this time around. Courteous and conciliatory, he's approached Republican opponents with an open door much like one that swings in both directions than one that slams in your face. Of course, there remain huge ideological differences, but philosophy is one thing, arrogance is another.

The budget dance still has a few rounds to go before it reaches fruition or impasse. Don't be surprised if some kind of deal is struck between the two sides, and if one is, it will be because of Brown's approach as much or more than any financial urgency or threat. Who knows, it may be that nice guys do win--once in a while, anyway. 

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