But Shearer shirks the liberal label, saying that the terms "liberal" and "conservative" do not apply in the post-Cold War world. He says he is a progressive pragmatist, not an ideologue.
"What being progressive means is that you believe that government can make a difference in people's lives, but you're not ideological about how it works."
Shearer often points to the city in which he lives as an example of a successful activist government. Shearer served on the Santa Monica planning commission for five years. His wife, Ruth Goldway, was mayor in the early 1980s when the city's pro-rent-control forces gained ascendancy on the city council.
Dominated by liberals, Santa Monica has been touted by travel writers and urban planners alike, as a pleasant and livable community--although local elections remain extremely contentious. Smart planning decisions and wise public investments have given Santa Monica its place in the sun, said Shearer.
Shearer is not a newcomer to the world of national politics. He served on the board of directors of the National Consumer Cooperative Bank during the Carter Administration. In the 1970s, he was also an economic adviser to then-Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown.
It would seem that the Yale graduate has been flirting with a political career for a while. His office at Occidental is full of photographs of him with well-known political figures, such as Sen. Alan Cranston, Nader and, of course, Clinton. There is a particularly striking black-and-white photo of his journalist father interviewing the late President Lyndon B. Johnson.
But Shearer refuses to speculate about the role he would play in a Clinton administration.
"If President Clinton asked me, I would certainly consider (a job with his administration,)" he said. "But my goal here isn't to get a job, it's to win the election."
Experience has also taught him to restrain his expectations.
"I've learned . . . that you don't plan your life around the outcomes of campaigns," he said.