CA Elections: Part of the Problem?

Try this for your election day pleasure.  Called California Follies, it describes the Byzantine CA election and political systems.  Excerpts: 

[P]olitics in California today contains just about every distortion and perversion of democratic processes and intentions that you could imagine — using elections for things they should never be used for, the excessive power of money in politics, and the disaster that comes from supermajority requirements, to name just a few.

The initiative process…sounds profoundly democratic in theory [but]turns out to be open to purchase by the highest bidder. A sufficient number of signatures to get a measure on the ballot is something you can basically buy with money (there are consulting firms that specialize in signature-gathering). You can spend as much as you want on the actual campaign — there are no contribution limits for initiatives…

If Prop. 16 [the PG&E one] passes, it will be just one of many supermajority requirements under which California currently suffers, the most infamous of which is 1978’s Prop. 13, which requires a two-thirds supermajority of both houses of the state Legislature before any tax can be raised. The consequence, of course, is that it is almost impossible to raise taxes — yet people are still eager for the services government provides, which means eternal agonizing over budget deficits. Then there’s the requirement that the state’s budget be passed by a two-thirds supermajority (the product of another initiative), which in practice means that the minority party (the Republicans these days) can hold it hostage with whatever unreasonable demands it likes.

Add in term limits for state legislators (which means the Legislature is perpetually occupied by neophytes at legislating, a profession at which you can be good or bad) and popular election of state judges (a bizarre and indefensible American tradition), and you have a whole series of institutions and practices that look democratic on the surface but end up producing a system that barely manages to sputter along. California isn’t the most corrupt state in the union, but it may be the most dysfunctional.

This is a pet issue of mine: How gumming up democracy can masquerade as expanding democracy.

UPDATE:  From the LA Times, “CA: Ruined By The Supermajority


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