Brown Refuses to Endorse Clinton
Kerrey, Harkin, Tsongas back Democratic Party's nominee; only one also-ran holds out
NEW YORK — PAUL TSONGAS, Tom Harkin, and Bob Kerrey - one-time political foes of Bill Clinton - have all climbed on the Arkansas governor's fast-moving presidential bandwagon. But Jerry Brown still jogs alongside, tossing jibes, and refusing to jump aboard.
Governor Brown's reluctance to embrace the Clinton ticket as thousands of delegates gather for the Democratic National Convention has gotten him a chilly reception from party leaders.
Party chairman Ron Brown says philosophically, "Jerry is being Jerry. He will continue to be Jerry."
House Speaker Thomas Foley (D) of Washington, at a breakfast meeting with reporters, says flatly of Governor Brown's continued politicking: "The time for dispute about the ticket is over."
Former party chairman John White complains that he can't figure out what Governor Brown wants. He says, with amazement: "It surprised me that Jerry Brown went anywhere in this election."
Brown did go somewhere, however, with an upset victory over Governor Clinton in the Connecticut primary and the Maine caucuses, and lesser triumphs in other states.
Thousands of rebellious Democrats were attracted to his populist message and his low-budget campaign.
When the former California governor arrived by train at Pennsylvania Station, just under the convention site at Madison Square Garden in downtown New York City, he spelled out his terms for supporting the Clinton team.
Brown warns Democratic leaders that unless the party goes "back to its roots," back to fighting for people who feel left out by the federal government, they will fail to get much done in Washington.
That means Congress should roll back its pay raise, accept limits of 12 years on their terms in office, and refuse to take campaign contributions of more than $100. What government officials need is a big dose of humility, he says.
So Brown proposes a "humility agenda," with sacrifice starting at the top. "The people with the biggest belts" must tighten them, Brown says.
"We come here to respond to the aspirations of those millions of people who are suffering, who are feeling pain, who have been ripped off and neglected by years and years of political and economic neglect," he says.
Brown suggests that a prime example of the Democratic Party's separation from ordinary people is Clinton's refusal to demand an increase in the minimum wage.
"I asked the party to go on record for raising the minimum wage by $1 [an hour] after the congressmen raised their own pay $18 an hour. You could at least give the poorest of our working people $1," he suggests.
While Democratic loyalists gather at the Garden to acclaim Clinton, Brown will be doing his own outside-the-hall campaigning with some of those he feels the party is ignoring.
One day he rallied with the homeless, and visited a soup kitchen.
On another he will call on his supporters to join an AIDS protest march. Then, he will help a project dedicated to rebuilding poor neighborhoods.
At a makeshift office a few blocks from the convention site, Brown has set up banks of personal computers, television sets, and VCRs to monitor political events.
Two hundred volunteers, most with little political experience, keep his protest going. On Sunday night, his office was manned by a recent Peace Corps volunteer, a comedy club owner, and two reporters-turned-authors.
Although Brown's grass-roots activities annoy party leaders, who want all the focus this week to be on Clinton, his efforts to needle the hierarchy are only mild annoyances compared to Democratic problems in earlier years.
In fact, this is one of the smoothest conventions - so far - since 1976, when Jimmy Carter, another Southern governor, won the nomination, and the election.
But Brown says the party still hasn't learned its lesson. It is still too close to corporate lobbyists, fat cats, and anyone else with $100,000 to $1 million to give.
While the Democratic convention moves toward adoption of the Clinton platform today, Brown keeps championing his own, so-called "Platform in Progress."
Its section on political reform begins: "Our democratic system has been the object of a hostile takeover engineered by a confederacy of corruption, careerism, and campaign consulting."
He blames the "incredible sums" that have "flooded into campaign war chests."