Gov. Jerry Brown, “litmus tests,” and the abiding conviction that the American people are gullible

By Dave Andrusko

Gov. Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown

Pro-abortion California Gov. Jerry Brown has been on the national political stage for what seems like forever–it’s actually since 1992 when he first ran for President. So as Democrats struggle to figure out their future post Hillary Clinton’s unexpected defeat, it’s not surprising that Meet the Press’ Chuck Todd gave most of last Sunday’s program over to an interview with Gov. Brown. [For a full transcript, go here.]

His appearance was particularly timely because it was just last week that West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced he was no longer a Democrat, that he was becoming a Republican again. As Todd mentioned, that means Democrats are down to 15 governors.

Another reason Brown’s appearance Sunday was so auspicious is that Democrats are having a very public battle over whether the party must have (or ought to have) a pro-abortion “litmus test” which candidates must pass in order to receive party support. And although Todd doesn’t say it, Brown has finessed the abortion issue forever and day. Whatever he may or may not believe “personally,” Brown is operationally pro-abortion–he’s actively promoted pro-abortion initiatives and signed a law legalizing assisted suicide. Yet Brown would insist he is not “pro-abortion.”

So the “takeaway” in many stories about the interview was that Brown does not endorse a “litmus test” on abortion. Well, if an unbiased observer reads the transcript and/or watchs the program, what might he or she conclude?

To begin with, Brown is extremely articulate. He can say a lot and say a little and either way you’re entirely sure what he means. On the abortion litmus test question, Brown first responds

America is not one place. Alabama is not San Francisco or California. To come together, as a great Jesuit once said, everything that rises, converges. So we have to rise above some of our most cherished ideological inclinations and find a common basis. And the economy has often been that common basis, or security in the world could be a part of that common basis. But you can’t let these hot button issues, that work great in particular congressional districts one way or the other, to be the guiding light for a national party that covers a very wide spectrum of belief.

Todd challenges Brown

CHUCK TODD: So you don’t believe there should be a litmus test on abortion? Or is there an issue there should be one on, for the Democrats?

Brown’s instinctive response is to evade–“ Well, the litmus test should be intelligence, caring about, as Harry Truman or Roosevelt used to call it, the common man”–but then he says

We’re not going to get everybody on board. And I’m sorry, but running in San Francisco is not like running in Tulare County or Modoc, California, much less Mobile, Alabama.

If we want to be a governing party of a very diverse, and I say diverse ideologically as well as ethnically country, well, then you have to have a party that rises above the more particular issues to the generic, the general issue of making America great, if I might take that word.

But what does that mean beyond the obvious–that a Democrat running in Mobile, Alabama, will not run a race like he or she would in San Francisco, California?

Assume for a second that means that it’s a non-starter for a pro-abortion Democrat to tout his or her pro-abortion credentials in a pro-life part of the country. Is Brown–and other Big Wig Democrats who have made noises about the party being a “Big Tent”–counseling the candidate to lie? Of course not, right?

What they are doing may (publicly, at least) annoy NARAL and Planned Parenthood and EMILY’s List. But surely the leadership of the Abortion Establishment knows what the real-life, down and dirty impact would be if a handful of more-or-less sincere pro-life Democrats help a party whose leadership is 100% pro-abortion take back the House of Representatives.

And that is they would be told how to vote by pro-abortion House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. And they would not cross her. Democrats rightly fear her; she plays for keeps. So with respect to abortion, these pro-life Democrats would be allowed to be “personally pro-life” but not allowed to stray from the party abortion forever and beyond line be even an inch.

One other quick thought about a genuinely interesting interview and follow up panel discussion. Todd correctly pointed out, “And in this survey [conducted on behalf of the House Democratic leadership], it noted that there’s a lot of work to do. There’s a lot of distrust, if you will, from these white working-class voters, who were Democrats 20 years ago, 30 years ago, and do not trust the Democrats even on the economy now. How did that happen?”

Brown gives lots of answers, some of which are perfectly legitimate, but he tap dances around the impact of the abortion issue. As someone who was actively involved in Democratic politics back in the 1970s, I can personally attest to how the party committed political hari-kari by becoming an extension of NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and EMILY’s List.

Periodically, Democrats pretend they will allow pro-lifers to run for office. And sometimes they do. However in no case do they ever allow pro-lifers to be a leaven, to help the party rise out of its doldrums.

Why not?

Because they are pro-abortion down the last metacarpal in their feet; they rely on Abortion Establishment money to run campaign; and because they think people are so stupid they will believe a couple of pro-life members of the House will change the party’s direction.