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History lesson: Why Jerry Brown is called 'Moonbeam'

Jerry Brown

In 1976, a Chicago newspaper columnist wrote that Jerry Brown would get "the moonbeam vote."

The writer was Mike Royko, who then started referring to the then-38-year-old Brown as "Gov. Moonbeam." Royko was suggesting that Brown was attracting California's New Age crowd. 

Brown was a strong supporter of space exploration and many of the earliest statewide green initiatives. Yet he also gained a reputation as a fiscal conservative, refusing many perks that came with the governorship.

Royko eventually retracted his statement, and in 1991 in the Chicago Tribune, he called the moniker "null, void and deceased." He called it a "meaningless throwaway line."

But in 1991, when Brown announced he would run for president, Roger Simon wrote in the Los Angeles Times: "It's not so much that Brown has changed but that the times have changed around him. I'm serious when I say that in some ways America has caught up with Jerry Brown."

Simon continued: "Brown was a New Wave politician before the phrase was coined. His campaign platform was: 'Protect the Earth, serve the people, explore the universe.' He was the candidate of new, unconventional ideas."

Brown is now 72.

Based on his current campaign and experience, do you think he still embodies the nickname "Moonbeam"?  And more importantly, do you think being called "Moonbeam" has had a positive effect on his current campaign?

-- Lori Kozlowski

Photo: Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown gives a speech at the Moving America Forward rally on the USC campus on Oct. 21, 2010. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (9)

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I think he is what this state needs now. He's experienced yet open minded.

No, more importantly Lori, is why you chose to drag this up - to paint him in an unfavorable light, and stir up the hate and derision of the tea-partiers. Now they can use this term "ole Moonbeam Brown". Good grief.

Once a hack, always a hack. Brown was a laughingstock as governor in the 70s and early 80s. Johnny Carson made him the butt of many monologue jokes.

He was terrible and bears a lot of responsibility for the state of California's debt, because he made it possible for state employees to unionize and thus began the spiral of insane salaries and perks for bureaucrats in California.

In addition to that he is an irrational flip flopper who claimed to be green but sprayed paraquat on people's homes by air. And a host of other lame brained decisions. No to Brown.

Here's a little bit more of the history Lori:

Back when when Royko coined the term "moonbeam" one of the wild eyed ideas that Brown had proposed was for California to launch its own satellite and use the quickly developing satellite communication technology for state and county emergency communication systems. Imagine that, way back in the late 70s someone was forward enough to think that we could communicate using microwave transponders on a satellite and ground based communication centers instead of old land-line telephones and archaic radios. Hmmmm. Maybe folks should think about that every-time they talk into there bluetooth or text on their personal internet pad or when they're watch their television on a down-link satellite dish. Brown's wild idea sure would has paid off in the long run.

Visit my blog by clicking my name to read my election day projection outcome .


The State Mansion was a white elephant Victorian in downtown Sacramento. Jerry grew up there. It was a fire trap. Reagan did not, could not, would not live there and another was built out in the suburbs. Jerry sold that one and occupied a one-room, mattress on the floor Zen palace near the capital, rumored with Gray Davis a roommate. Remember Jerry started out studying for the priesthood.

Jerry's Supreme Court picks were voted out unceremoniously. His Secretary of Transportation, Adriana let-them-ride-bikes Gianturko(?) let Jerry's father Pat's magnificent freeway system decay.

Jerry talked a frugal game but his actions cost the state dearly.

Grace and jadelyn? You are exactly the reason some people should not have the right to vote. What insipid intellect. I am embarrassed for you. Lololololol

I'm not sure America has caught up to Brown. Sure, people use cell phones and satellites, but Brown created a larger legacy than "Moonbeam". As he says himself, when he left office the first time California was the leader in renewable energy. Not only are other countries leading now, but outside of Texas wind power, not a single state even comes close to what happened here 30 years ago.

Yesterday I saw and love they why Jerry Brown talked to the people he even took time to shake my hand and talk to a couple of people. Even when he was running late. You could call him whatever name you want. But he got my vote, to me he will always be the down to earth caring Jerry. I will even make a bet that he will be our next governor, on Wedesday! Good luck Jerry and let's all vote, for whom ever we want.

Gov Brown coined the famous saying " Small is beautiful! "


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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