Willie Brown burst into national prominence at the 1972 Democratic National Convention. George McGovern had won the California primary, but a dispute emerged as to whether the California delegation should vote on a winner-take-all or a proportional basis.
Brown was the head of the California delegation. He backed McGovern and wanted the winner-take-all rule to control.
Brown made his case in one of the most fiery speeches I’ve ever seen at a political convention. To listen to Brown’s speech now is to realize that Brown was years ahead of his time when it came to identity politics.
Brown presented his case in highly personalized terms that foreshadowed his future as a political boss. According to Brown, the opposing position was an affront to him — a case of blatant disrespect. The opposition wanted to take away “my delegates,” “my women, “my African-Americans.”
Brown concluded his temper tantrum by thundering: “I deserve no less; give me back my delegation.”
It wasn’t about fairness or George McGovern. It was about Willie Brown. Always has been.
In 1972, Brown was in about the same age bracket as Harris was in 1995 when the two had their affair. One can see how the Willie Brown of 1972, his taste in sport coats notwithstanding, might make an attractive partner. The attraction of Willie Brown 23 years later can best explained by Henry Kissinger’s aphorism: “Power is the great aphrodisiac.”