Gov. Jerry Brown, left, and former Vice President Al Gore arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power" at the Arclight Hollywood on Tuesday, July 25, 2017, in Los Angeles. Willy Sanjuan Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP
Gov. Jerry Brown, left, and former Vice President Al Gore arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power" at the Arclight Hollywood on Tuesday, July 25, 2017, in Los Angeles. Willy Sanjuan Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

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How can Democrats win again? Advocate for the ‘common man,’ Jerry Brown says

By Christopher Cadelago

ccadelago@sacbee.com

August 06, 2017 1:48 PM

Gov. Jerry Brown, assessing the deepening rifts within his Democratic Party as it confronts the Trump administration, said in an interview airing Sunday that it should avoid litmus tests over divisive issues like abortion and instead take up the causes of the “common man.”

“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,” Brown said on NBC’s “Meet the Press with Chuck Todd,” borrowing Donald Trump’s populist slogan.

“The litmus test should be intelligence ... (and) caring about the common man,” Brown said on a special edition of the public affairs show called “Our Broken Politics.” “We have to rise above some of our most cherished ideological inclinations and find a common basis.”

Brown, who leaves office after next year, has emerged as an elder statesman of sorts for Democrats, and the divisions that have gripped the party nationally and in California have had little impact on his ability to advance his agenda at the Capitol.

But California is expected to be a key battleground in next year’s midterm House elections, and the messages adopted by Democratic challengers in more conservative parts of the state and nation will determine whether they can beat back Republican control.

“And as a candidate, when you’re running in a Republican district, if you’re a Democrat, you better be extraordinary,” Brown said. “And you have to relate to a very different kind of constituency than we have here in San Francisco or in New York City.”

Brown, as part of his broader assessment, also stressed that House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is not to blame for the party’s losses in a string of special elections, suggesting Democrats need to recruit candidates who better reflect their districts.

“If you added up pluses and minuses, I think Nancy Pelosi is a major pillar of the Democratic Party,” he said. “And the answer is not to try to replace her with somebody, but to make sure the candidates represent and can empathize and be a part of the district they’re running in.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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