With Jerry Brown, Will the Age Jokes Get . . . Old?
Yesterday, April 7, marked California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s 72nd birthday.
That makes him the same age as John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. If elected governor this fall, Brown would be America’s only septuagenarian head-of-a-state.
So is Brown’s age a germane talking point in this contest? The California Republican Party seems to think so. Yesterday, it put out a press release: “Top 10 Ways Jerry Brown Says He’s Celebrating His 72nd Birthday”.
Number 10 on the list: “Watching Matlock reruns with my union buddies”.
If that’s the CRP’s way of showing that someone at party headquarters watches “The Simpsons” (“Matlock” being the preferred show of choice at the Springfield Retirement Castle), then congratulations.
But California Republicans should be careful in how they choose to play the age card against Brown.
For openers, there’s the question of double standards. McCain was 72 in 2008; Ronald Reagan was a few days shy of his 69th birthday when he took office in 1981, and 73 when he sought reelection in 1984.
Second, the California voter who turns 72 in this election was all of 44 when Jerry lost to Pete Wilson in the U.S. Senate race of 1982. Presumably, he or she is still can recall the Medfly, Rose Bird and the weariness that contributed to Brown’s defeat in that contest, which occurred in his last year as governor. So why suggest that a candidate in his or her 70s — and, by default, voters — is a stereotypical geezer?
Third, any possession with age distracts from the Republicans’ strongest selling point in this election: a vision for the future.
So far, Brown’s gubernatorial run has a fuzzy feel to it. That’s due in part to not having a challenger, to force him to step up his game and offer some actual reform ideas. But it’s also representative of a different Jerry Brown in this election: not the visionary from the 70s, but a present-day fixer who argues that experience is an asset.
Three years ago, a New York Times/CBS News poll found that only 1% of voters believed that the 70s were the best age for a president, while 52% said the 50s were the best age. If I were the California GOP, I’d take advantage of the fact that either of my gubernatorial nominees — Meg Whitman (54 in August) or Steve Poizner (54 next January) — sits in that sweet spot.
Otherwise, what’s next? “Jerry Brown, One Day Older Than Kofi Anan”?