- - Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Jerry Brown is tanned, rested and ready. The leader of the nation’s most populous state is mulling another bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. We need not concern ourselves with the particulars of an election campaign three years hence, but we observe that while comparisons are odious, Mr. Brown might be a breath of fresh air in an atmosphere reeking of dinosaur breath.

It’s not that there’s anything refreshing about Mr. Brown himself. He’s an avid fan of big spending, including billions for high-speed rail in the land where the car is king. He is a sequel from the land of sequels, governor from the time when bell bottoms were hip and edgy even before someone invented “edgy.” He’s a sprightly 75, which would make Hillary Clinton, who would be almost 70 in 2016, the leader of a Democratic youth movement. Mr. Brown was a contender for the Democratic nomination in the 1970s, again in the 1980s and once more with feeling in the 1990s. His return is a decade overdue.

What makes Mr. Brown stand out is that he takes a lot of pride in what he is. He’s a liberal, still aflame. That’s a welcome contrast to Barack Obama, who was an enigma when he ran, campaigning on everything he wasn’t. He made promises about keeping your health care, going “line-by-line” through the budget to cut wasteful spending and proposing “middle-class tax cuts.” He delivered only his casual incompetence.

Nobody was surprised when Mr. Brown signed legislation this year to enable laymen to perform abortions, to enable illegal aliens to get state driver’s licenses, and to give children a generous surplus of parents. “Heather Has Two Mommies,” except in California, where she can have five.

He’s comfortable enough in his liberal skin to steal an idea or two from Republicans. He once campaigned to dump the tax code and replace it with a flat tax. Nothing would better liberate Americans from the annual drudgery of preparing tax returns and putting an end to the average citizen’s forced romance with the Internal Revenue Service. He’s liberal enough that he might even do something bipartisan, unlike the current occupant of the Oval Office, who only talks the game.

Some Republicans think the Obamacare debacle will give their party the momentum needed to hold the House and win the Senate next year and take the White House in 2016. They gave in to the Democrats on the budget to get on with raising taxes. But the nation is evenly split, and winners are determined by turnout. Only a certain kind of congressional Republican grooves on the thrill of surrender. But the Democratic front-runners are fossils, stuck in the past and imagining that raising taxes, increasing spending and dissolving traditional values are “new ideas.” Mr. Brown is the candidate of the ‘70s with the new idea of running on nostalgia.

That should give Republicans an edge. Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Chris Christie — they’re all fresh. We look forward to a one-on-one debate between any one of them and the California governor.