Presidential Campaign and Candidates

 

Jerry Brown 1992 Announcement Speech

BROWN FOR PRESIDENT

Edmund G. Brown Jr.'s Announcement Speech

Independence Hall Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

October 21, 1991

Good Afternoon.

We gather today at the most sacred site of American democracy. It was right here two centuries ago that our forebearers forged the miracle of America, and they called it "A New Order of the Ages."

In that hall, ordinary people not any different from you and me, struggled and argued and finally agreed on the ideas which make our government and the people of the United States stand apart from all others.

I have come here today because I care about my country and its future, and I care about the future of this earth on which we all depend. 

I love being an American and I love the freedom and the creativity it makes possible.

I love the things which our democracy stands for--the ideals and truths which were worked out just a few feet away. These ideas have power and they are stirring the human imagination in Eastern Europe and Burma and the furthest reaches of Asia.

In that spirit, I am here in Philadelphia to stand as a candidate for President of the United States in 1992.

I am here today to make a commitment to each of you that I intend to keep and honor: That I will work with all my energy and that I will do whatever is necessary to bring about real change.

This candidacy is not simply about me. It is about us. You and you and you.

Because we Americans confront a Great Crisis. The swelling tide of Decline looming on the horizon constitutes a threat to America as deadly as any faced by our forebears.

And we have only begun to reap the whirlwind of decline. Without decisive action on a large scale--of a nature totally unacknowledged in current political debate-the decline--will accelerate.

Our founder's greatest fear was the danger posed by the merger of economic and political power. Indeed, when 200 years ago Jefferson started the Democratic Party, he proclaimed its purpose thus: "We must put it out of the power of the few to riot on the labors of the many."

The calamity which our forefathers feared most has, in our time, come to pass--an unholy alliance of private greed and corrupt politics. Our deteriorating economy, our collapsing political process, and our eroding system of common values, are the direct consequences of a few allowed to satisfy their appetites for greed and privilege.

While the net worth of the average American family declined, the Forbes 400 richest families in America saw their collective wealth increase by 300%! Did any other American families see their net worth triple? Even double?

However, the stunning gains by the very rich did not result from the success of hard work or as a reward earned by expanding the nation's prosperity to the benefit of all.

The triumph of the forces of special privilege with its devastating consequences to the entire nation, was engineered with the complicity of Washington's entrenched politicians, Democrat and Republican alike.

Our democratic system has been the object of a hostile takeover engineered by a confederacy of corruption, careerism and campaign consulting.

And money has been the lubricant greasing the deal. Incredible sums--literally hundreds of millions of dollars--from political action committees (PACs), lobbyists, and wealthy patrons have flooded into the campaign war chests of Washington's entrenched political elite--Democrats and Republicans alike.

Seeking to secure careers of unlimited tenure, these politicians use this cash to fuel monstrous campaigns. Captained by political consultants, these campaigns are designed to crush any challenge to their power.

And, of course, the forces of greed are rewarded richly for the campaign contributions. Unjust tax breaks are only one form of acknowledgement. Agreeing to look the other way, these politicians opened the door to the plunder of Savings and Loans and a merger mania which gutted some of our most respected companies.

The insatiable appetite for campaign dollars has turned the government into a stop and shop for every conceivable greedy and narrow interest.

The quid pro quo could not be more straightforward. The legality of the barter cannot mask its inherent corruptness. Nor can any degree of dissembling obscure the truth that this bargain has been executed--almost without exception--to the detriment of the national interest and at the expense of the American people.

The cost of this corruption has been staggering. Can it be a coincidence that our cities became engulfed in a flood of rising crime and rampaging drugs exactly when the poorest among us were experiencing drastic reductions in their standard of living?

Together, private greed and corrupt power have launched a deadly assault on our common values.

To rationalize greed, they championed materialism and self-interest over moral responsibility and community. "What is in it for me?" To protect their power they inject poisons into the body politic; appeals to fear and selfishness replace calls to hope and sacrifice.

Despairing of their inability to influence the political process, legions of Americans-numbered in the millions--swell the ranks of the party of non voters.

How ironic that the spirit of Democracy is aflame around the world, while in America democratic choice is rendered illusory and Jefferson's "consent of the governed" is mostly engineered and rarely earned.

Shortly after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, President Lincoln explained that the central idea pervading the struggle was the "necessity of proving that popular government is not an absurdity."

The crisis which led to our bloody Civil War was triggered by the secession of one third of the states. Today, one half of our people have stopped voting and "seceded" from the political democracy.

Politics is at the heart of democracy. When the political system loses respect and trust, then the decline of democracy will surely follow. And when democracy declines, the survival of America is put in jeopardy.

This crisis has been triggered by the collapse of our two party system. In reality, there is only one party: It's the Incumbent Party. There are, of course, two major political organizations with different names, but at their core they are the same. They share the same world view and they serve the power of the same private interests which, in return, finance the campaigns of both. When there are no substantial differences, there is no choice to be made. And without choices, there is no democracy, and when there is no democracy there is no freedom; only a system which entertains us with illusions.

As one historian wrote nearly a half century ago: "When there is no alternative, no threat of defeat, there is no incentive to hold together, and in the end, no policy, merely a scramble for special privileges."

The recent Congressional Pay Raises are but the most egregious example.

Bouncing checks, skipping out on restaurant tabs, and self-serving pay increase are all manifestations of the insensitivity and contempt of entrenched elected officials.

When our leaders fail to do their job and betray the people's confidence, then it is our inalienable right to strip them of their power through the great engine of democracy.

The leaders of Washington's Incumbent Party--both Democrats and Republicans--have failed their duty. Placing their own interests above the national interest, they have allowed themselves to be trapped and to varying degrees corrupted by the powerful forces of greed.

It is time for them to go.

As always, the strength necessary to create the change we need must come from each of us.

As it was at the beginning, America hinges on, "We the People" exercising the sovereignty we claimed in this city of Philadelphia.

For 200 years, each generation has earned the title "American" by following a simple moral command: That we give our children better than we received; that we pass on a greater future with more freedom and more opportunity.

However, we are now in danger of becoming the first generation to leave our children with a lesser America.

In that hall, our forebears chose armed rebellion in defense of the very ideas and principles which are now being betrayed by a corrupted political process.

On July 6, 1775--a full year before they declared Independence--the Second Continental Congress issued a "Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms." In it they proclaimed:

"Honor, justice, and humanity forbid us to tamely surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors and which our innocent posterity

have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage upon them."

If we continue to allow our children's rightful heritage to be plundered by politicians and greedy interests, if we do not halt the auctioning off of this nation's assets to foreigners to underwrite our debts, if we force succeeding generations to sell with their future to pay for our excesses--then we will certainly have betrayed our heritage.

The future of America's children and their children is nothing less than our moral test.

At stake is everything that Philadelphia means, not only to us but to the whole world.

I run for President because I believe that America is at the crossroads.

If we, right now, are prepared in the spirit of our ancestors to join in common cause, putting principle before party and patriotism before profits, then we can reclaim for ourselves and our children the Idea and Promise of America.

The hour has rung for us, "We the People" to rise up and take back our democracy and our country!

This election is not simply about changing elected officials. It's about changing the country.

And restoring what our forbears brought forth here 200 years ago.

What is required is not just a candidate, but a candidacy, not merely a campaign, but a cause.

The goal of this candidacy is a government that embodies the hope and the promise of our country and insures that we never abandon our heritage.

I am here to make a solemn promise that I am committed to be the catalyst for change.

But, I can not work change alone. No woman or man can do that.

I need each of you to commit yourselves with me to work change for the common good.

You and I must make our voice heard.

Both you and I will need to sacrifice in order to achieve higher goals: decency, respect, duty and honor--the very things that were embraced in that hall 200 years ago.

You and I, each in our small way, must stand up to forces that overwhelm us.

You and I must deliver a message to those who run the United States of America like a private club that we are going to work change.

We must change and move beyond inwardly--fuming self-interest to interest in the greater good. We must see one another as brothers and sisters.

I am only one person with flaws and faults. And in my 53 years I have made many mistakes.

But I commit to each of you that I will strive to my utmost to continually change within myself.

I do not pretend to know all the right questions, much less have all the right answers. And even if I did, it wouldn't make much difference unless we first decisively break the political gridlock that is undermining our country.

The campaign I propose must be an ongoing dynamic process in which the people are not only heard, but truly engaged. Only then can a consensus of action emerge which speaks the will of the people.

Our cause is clear. We must: restore commitment to our nation, vitality to the values of our society, vigor to our economy, real democracy to our government, and purpose to our national life. And above all secure our children's birthright of a greater America than we ourselves inherited.

First and overriding is the priority to restore to the people what is rightfully ours--the power of democracy. In corrupted hands it is lifeless; in the people's hands it possesses an irrepressible magic.

The current system promotes tenure over statesmanship. It erects barriers to real participation. Reelection upon reelection of the same incumbents occurs at the expense of new ideas, new energy, and honest representation.

That's why I favor limiting the number of terms of those who serve in Congress.

We will never revitalize our market economy--until the strangle-hold of unrestrained greed is broken and until every American is protected by an Economic Bill of Rights.

We know we must overhaul the fiscal management of our nation. And we know the answer is not to pour more tax dollars down the same bottomless pit.

We know we must reform our system of National Health Care to cover every single person.

But as long as the medical industry and the insurance companies are allowed to pour tens of millions of dollars in to the political process, nothing is ever going to change.

We know we must improve the education we give our kids. But that will never happen until we break the shackles of restraining our teachers and make the same commitment to developing technology for learning as we have for defense.

We know that we will not really be free until the rights of every American are secured-including the right of women to control their own bodies.

We will never insure the dignity and security of our senior citizens until their retirement and pension systems are safe from the danger of being looted.

We must save our cities and the generations of innocent children who are being destroyed by drugs and crime and hopelessness. But that will never happen until we are willing to risk political defeat, if necessary, over this moral issue.

I run for president because I believe that this country deserves a real political choice. This election must be about something more than Democratic "insiders" against Republican "insiders" debating over incremental change.

It is time to choose. The entrenched political establishment and their media allies believe that our country is on the right track and that its problems can be met with incremental efforts. If you believe that, please do not vote for me.

However, if you search your heart and if my message rings true to you--then I tell you, it is not enough to vote for me. If you share my vision, then you must join me in this candidacy.

It is time to choose: stand with them or join with us.

This candidacy rests on a real faith in the people. That is why I will not accept any contribution over $100. If the corruption of political money is the issue, then the answer is not to take it.

No normal Presidential campaign could hope to survive on $100 contributions. Thus this candidacy will only succeed if millions of Americans claim it as their own and carry it on their shoulders.

The experts say I cannot win. Some say that a campaign based on broad participation and $100 contributions is not serious, and can be ignored. Others dismiss the effort saying that I lack the backing of powerful people or that my message is too idealistic, even too extreme.

I don't question the right of the Washington establishment to criticize, to scrutinize or to form opinions on substance or political viability. It is their privilege to believe that only card carrying members of the Incumbent Party are worthy of election. However, when they assume the power to confer legitimacy, and thus determine who will be heard and who will not, then they steal what belongs to the voters--the right to choose.

Some of you are saying to yourselves that there is not much that one person can do. But I tell you that together, we can prevail.

Against their money, we have something stronger--the strength of countless hands; against their propaganda machines, we have something more powerful, the voice of the People;

against their professional organizations we have something better--the votes. And ultimately against their authority, we can call forth forces much greater-an Idea--which matched to dedication creates an unconquerable moral energy.

My optimism flows from an unshakable belief in the kind of people we Americans are and the kind of Americans from whom we descend. We carry in our hearts the true country and that cannot be stolen. We follow in the spirit of our ancestors and that cannot be broken.

America lives today because for 200 years there have been women and men who prized freedom above life itself.

When our ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, they did so literally in the shadow of the hangman's noose. Within weeks of the signing, the prospect of a United States appeared a lost cause.

The fledgling American army under George Washington had been routed on Long Island and in Manhattan by the British army.

Retreating across New Jersey, the American troops barely escaped. The Congress fled Philadelphia, thousands of Americans gave up the cause, and by December everything seemed lost.

And then, at that darkest moment, a spark of hope appeared--a pamphlet written by a private, and simply titled, "The Crisis."

"These are the times that try men's souls," it began, "The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

Thomas Paine's words electrified the countryside. It was read in the churches and town squares. Washington ordered it read to groups of his suffering soldiers, huddling in the cold.

There was little else to sustain them when Washington on Christmas Eve led 2500 Americans, starving and freezing, across the ice packed Delaware River, in a snow storm, to take on 10,000 of the world's best army.

And on Christmas, these brave men won a miraculous victory at Trenton.

But only half the gamble had been won. Next was the British force at Princeton. However, by that moment the term of enlistment of almost all Washington's continentals were to expire in one day.

Standing on the ground bloodstained by their feet, in bitter cold, the regiments were formed on ranks to be addressed by Washington. For a year they had fought and suffered while others stayed home.

Washington explained that these veterans were needed now and if they would just agree to stay a few more weeks they could do more than anything ever for their country. When he finished, he rode off to the side and waited.

Not one man moved.

Their silent refusal meant the end of everything--there would be no America. In shock, Washington rode back in front, his usual reserve gave way as he pleaded with them to stay.

"You have done all I asked and more than could be reasonably expected; but your country is at stake, your wives, your homes, and all you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay only one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you probably never can do under any other circumstance. "

"We are facing," he concluded, "the crisis which is to decide our destiny."

There was nothing left to be said and he rode to the side to await their response.

For a moment no one stirred.

And then, a lone veteran, whose name is lost to history, stepped forward, saying that he could not go home if his country needed him.

Then others stepped forward, by the twos, by the threes, until only a few, too enfeebled soldiers, remained in the original line.

At that moment, America was born. These were the Winter Soldiers. And they are why we are here in Philadelphia today.

Let each of us step forward and enlist as Winter soldiers in the Cause of America.

Join with me. And then, first by the tens, then by the hundreds, then by the thousands and hundreds of thousands, until by the millions, "We the People" reclaim our Democracy.

"ANNUIT COEPTIS." May God bless this undertaking!

FOOTNOTES:

1. Page 2: John Hay Diary: Lincoln's Secretary, April 1861

2. Page 3: Price of Union, by Horatio Alger

3. Page 7: Lines on true country and ancestors were paraphrased from Midnight Oil-Diesel and Dust, 1988

4. Page 7-10: Winter Soldiers was taken from The Winter Soldier: Battle for Trenton In Princeton, by Richard Ketchum; Double Day 1973 and 1991, Ch. 5 The Army Was in the Most Desperate Situation, p.268-283.

Source: Field Guide to the 1992 Presidential Campaign Democracy in Action

 

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