SAN FRANCISCO -- The Legislature's unpopularity is such that a standard practice of political campaigns is to distance oneself from "Sacramento politicians" while tying one's opponents to them.
Gov. Jerry Brown's ballot measure to raise taxes has suffered from the association, and he has asserted in his campaign advertising - however disingenuously - that "Sacramento politicians can't touch the money" his initiative would raise.
If it is the kind of rhetoric a third-term governor and lifelong politician might find uncomfortable, and it gave Brown pause this afternoon.
"I'm not going to give a defense of politicians. I'm not that stupid," the Democratic governor said when asked at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco if politicians wouldn't waste the tax revenue promised by Proposition 30. "But I will say the word politician comes from "politeia," which means the pulse, the community, the city state. In ancient Greece, the politician unfortunately has the work of trying to mesh all these totally discordant, contradictory opinions and identities, and they clash.
"And that's why sometimes people get a little tired of democracy, and representative democracy, because it is strenuous. And it does take sustained courage to keep at it, even when you see things you don't like or you get disappointed. Now, if I were going to be cynical or get disappointed, I would have checked out a long time ago. But I've come back."
Brown, 74, later recounted all the offices he has held or run for over the decades, and he was asked about his political future.
"Do I have more offices in mind?" he said. "I'm not telling."