Every time I read about the Large Hadron Collider, the huge new particle accelerator in Switzerland where they’re crashing protons together to make black holes so physicists can learn more about the nature of the universe, I think of Jerry Brown.

And not merely because of his interest in advanced technology. Brown is capable of creating vacuums all by himself.

The latest exhibit is the Chamber of Commerce’s now-withdrawn ad about Brown’s first governorship. Now let’s be clear: the ad was fundamentally dishonest. It criticized Brown for opposing Prop 13 but then blamed him for big increases in state spending and a state deficit that were the direct result of Prop 13. The chamber should have picked a lane.

But – and this is a big but – there was no small measure of justice in this injustice to the Brown campaign. The fact that Jerry Brown can be attacked this way is Jerry Brown’s fault.

While Brown has been talking up his work as attorney general, he has left an enormous political vacuum where the rationale for his candidacy should be. Months ago, Brown should have begun relentlessly defining his own past – in detailed interviews, in radio and TV ads – with an eye to the future.

That narrative should have been, in brief: I was governor before, and many of the systemic problems that the state faces now began during my governorship. I saw some of these threats coming. Others, I didn’t see. But know this: because I was there when things started to go off the rails – and because I contributed to today’s problems with my own mistakes – I’m uniquely positioned – in fact, I feel it is my responsibility – to go back into office and make things right.

Such a narrative could have been a twofer. First, it would have provided a handy way to deal with attacks on Brown’s record (Brown could simply agree with the attacks and spin them easily forward to talk about how he is uniquely positioned to fix things). Second, it would have allowed him to define the governorship that Californians need: a great unwinding of a governing system that doesn’t work. In this way, Brown’s interests are aligned with those of the public; polling shows that Californians don’t understand what went wrong in the state or how the state works. A Brown candidacy along these lines would serve him and educate the public, thus making it far easier to fix what ails California.

Instead – perhaps because of political caution, perhaps because tackling governmental dysfunction is such a monumental task — Brown hasn’t developed this narrative. And so he has created a huge vacuum that his opponents are already filling.