$6000 Suits and Barack Obama: Things Willie Brown Likes

This is part of the “Critical Thought on Obama series” running on Tuesdays and Thursdays at The Black Snob.

The always distinguished former mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown has not sat mum in the great Obama v. Clinton debate.

He hasn’t said who he’s for either. But he hasn’t stayed mum.

Brown was San Francisco’s first black mayor and he was the longest sitting state Speaker of the House. He’s known for his smarts, his dapper dress (including the aforementioned $6,000 suits) and his incredible cache among other Democrats.

As speaker he was a skilled negotiator, ending budget standoffs and working with both Democrats and Republicans. He was also good a coalescing political power. Republicans had a hard time undercutting his heft in the assembly even when the numbers were in their favor. He was so powerful that many said the 1990 ballot initiative to implement term limits in California was to wrench him from his 15 year perch.

As mayor he pushed initiatives that brought grown to businesses and neighborhoods, steering San Francisco during the prosperous 1990s where the tech industry boomed. He was a popular mayor, but not without controversy. Many accused him of being too close to business interests and engaging in cronyism. Despite the opposition he had an easy time being reelected, winning by 20 points.

The only thing that could stop his political career was term limits.

When it comes to the Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton death match for the Democratic nomination he’s been passionate and interested. He praises them both. He thinks having two choices this historical is delightful, but he’s practically laissez faire when it comes to the sparring.

He likes them both. He thinks their epic battle is good for the party. He’s not picking sides.

Really. He’s not. Stop asking.

Brown is a cheerleader for this battle royale and said as much so during the California State Democratic Convention this year.

“I am in LOVE with this battle! It is the best thing that has happened in a long time…

It is a way in which the Democratic party breathes life into communities, into neighborhoods, into people who never had life!”

The excitement continued everywhere, from Charlie Rose to NPR:

These priorities make the current race for the Democratic presidential nomination — between Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) — a particular dilemma for Brown, who says he does not support either candidate. But it’s a dilemma that he characterizes as “delightful.”

At times Brown offered a bit more praise for Obama, but that is likely attributed to his familiarity with being a black political trailblazer.

Brown writes in his book about the “barbershop test” — that candidates of color must be comfortable in the halls of power but also at the local barbershop, discussing everyday issues such as sports and music.

He says Obama’s recent speech on race in the United States was the equivalent of a barbershop test — one which Brown says Obama passed.

At a recent forum in the San Francisco Bay Area, Brown joined the chorus of individuals who don’t see an Obama/Clinton, Clinton/Obama pairing in the near future. He also add that no one should have see this race as a “coronation.” The nomination had to be earned:

Brown said he thought when the race began that if Hillary Clinton remained respectful of Obama and her other rivals for the nomination, she would win. “I did not believe it made any sense to assume that instead of primary campaigns there would be coronations.” Obama, he said, has proved to be “a fabulous, qualified human being who also has lots of flavor about him;” his campaign proved to be savvy by not immediately gravitating to traditionally black forums and communities, but rather appealing from the start to as broad a demographic base as possible.

But Brown says people shouldn’t work themselves into a froth over Clinton and Obama’s lengthy battle:

He explains, “If that battle reduces itself to conditions where personalities — rather than issues — and where the interests of the party take a back seat to the ambitions of a single personality, it could be harmful.

“That is not the case [here], and I think it will only be good for Democrats.”

Brown, who has been a super delegate in the past, is not one this year. But he is a strong believer in the original intent of a super delegate — to prevent outside interests from pushing an unelectable candidate through the party progress.

He told CNN the process has its merits.

“[Superdelegates] are the keepers of the faith,” said former San Francisco, California, Mayor Willie Brown.

“You have superdelegates because this is the Democratic Party. You don’t want the bleed-over from the Green Party, the independents and others in deciding who your nominee will be.”

It’s unsure what that may be mean for Obama. Some are worried Clinton could win the race via superdelegates. Others point out that Obama has the lead in the popular vote and number of state’s won and is closing in on matching Clinton for superdelegates, all making her chances at winning very slim. And Obama is far from being some fringe candidate trying to usurp party leadership. With backers like one-half of the Kennedy clan and Sen. John Kerry, Obama is riding a very well-heeled, Democratic wave.

I imagine Brown will keep up with his gentlemanly ways, relax in his snazzy duds and let the kids battle it out. And while I’m inclined to say he’s leaning Obama, I don’t think he’ll die if Clinton finagled the nomination. He’s more likely to use his clout to pull the party back together if all goes to the dogs come August.

For more on Brown’s opinions on the Democratic race, check out this video of his appearance on Charlie Rose where he went into depths about his feelings.

2 thoughts on “$6000 Suits and Barack Obama: Things Willie Brown Likes

  1. You know…He seems obscure to me. I only have heard him speak on PBS. He seems to not seek formulaic celebrity and he has a great reputation. Besides his obvious chocolate skin-tone, he exudes a level of mystery to me. I don’t get him in that I feel like he doesn’t want you to. And that seems to be a feat he has accomplished being a Black Politician on his terms. Now I just don’t know the limit of those terms and how much power he had in developing his stature, is it fate, or is it a collaborative effort of Liberal Whites that helped him become who he is.How is he received by Oaklanders?

  2. only $6k per suit. really? must have been something his personal shopper picked up on sale or clearance. willie brown brought a sense of class to “the city” that has faded under the current administration. maybe he will make a comeback. andrea:when i lived on both sides of the bay, he was always well respected (and feared).

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