The Wizard of Sacramento: Governor Jerry Brown
by William Smithers
Amazon, Smashwords

"While I'm in charge, let them breathe methane, drink benzene, eat arsenic and lead! After me comes the good stuff!"

This searing critique of Jerry Brown focuses on his latest two terms as California’s governor from 2011-2019. It posits that Brown maintained a positive public image in office despite his commitment to boost the economic interests of his state over environmental protections and concerns. Brown’s third term in office began in 2011 in the wake of the recovery efforts from the country’s 2008 financial crisis. Succumbing to economic pressures and priorities, environmental regulations are eased, and violations are overlooked under Brown’s leadership to allow for oil and gas companies to drill with greater intensity using unconventional methods like fracking. This proves devastating for working-class communities near the drilling and fracking sites as they experience health problems, drinking water contamination, and higher levels of pollution.

As criticisms begin to creep in from organizations, citizens, and media outlets, and lawsuits are threatened, Smithers accuses Brown and others of racketeering and conspiracy to protect themselves and their interests. Despite growing threats to his reputation, Brown’s talents for self-promotion and media manipulation inspire Smithers’ comparisons of Brown to figures such as Marie Antoinette. The result is a revealing look at a politician’s public face and private machinations combined with the ignorant bliss of the masses impacted by dangerous environmental policies servicing profit over health and safety.

Smithers defends his critique and his accusations with a wealth of documents, including excerpted official reports from watchdog groups and government agencies. These voices combine to speak truth to power in the spirit of activism and advocacy for often unseen people hurt by harmful economic and environmental policies. Smithers calmly and methodically lays out his argument and, ultimately, his assessment of Brown’s methods, actions, and priorities as governor. Smithers admits the form is too long to run as an op-ed piece, but the purpose and tone of his work resemble the commentary of Thomas Friedman or Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times.

Smithers injects his frustration into the argument that Brown’s legacy has not been tainted by any of his environmental failures, and the bitterness is exasperated by the revelation that Brown is even lauded for his policies. Smithers likens Brown to the Wizard of Oz, the ultimate literary con artist, who dupes people into believing his powers will benefit all. Smithers’ frustration and bitterness never overshadow the informed critique but round out the persuasive appeal with pathos working alongside logos. Smithers’ voice, however, is interrupted frequently by strings of direct quotations that disrupt the flow and allure of his argument. Synthesizing and streamlining the important information contained in these quotes would cement the support for his overall thesis.

This compelling analysis feels particularly important in light of current political pressures to weigh economic impacts next to the health and safety of American citizens. Brown’s decisions to place the economic interests of his struggling state in the wake of the financial crisis ahead of protective environmental regulations is worthy of historical analysis and critique. Smithers is up to the task with this well-documented profile that seeks to hold Brown accountable. He is intent on filling in where, according to him, the mainstream media has left gaping holes of truth and insight.

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