TIME

THE PHILOSOPHER KING

As people look to California to push back against a Republican agenda, Jerry Brown sees his star soar
California Governor Jerry Brown, nearing the end of an unprecedented fourth term in office, stands in the governor’s mansion in Sacramento

It was one of San Francisco’s famously cool summer days and a victorious moment for the 79-year-old governor, one that would not have had the same electricity if Hillary Clinton had been the person occupying the Oval Office.

“There are turning points where the earth goes into irreversible change,” Brown warned, preparing to sign legislation he had championed to extend California’s singular cap-and-trade program until 2030. “This is not about a politician,” he went on. “It’s about the world. And California is leading the world in dealing with the principal existential threat that humanity faces. I mean, what could be a more glorious undertaking than the one we’re now embarked upon?”

California has always been a place for glorious undertakings—mining for gold, chasing fame, coming up with Silicon Valley’s next big idea—and few names carry more political weight in the state than Brown’s. Following in his father’s footsteps, Jerry Brown first served as governor 40 years ago, and as he nears the end of an unprecedented fourth term, the election of Donald Trump has arguably made the Golden State’s chief executive the most powerful Democrat in America. As Washington continues to be dominated by scandal and squabble, the state that likes to think of itself as an engine for progress is using the President as fuel. “We are getting sh-t done,” Brown said to a cheering crowd of union members in late August in San Francisco, touting recent achievements like passing a gas tax that will fund $52 billion in road repairs. “We’re here to lead,” Brown said, “not to listen to that clown in Washington tear the country apart.”

Over the past half century, Brown has served not just as governor but as California’s secretary of state and

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