September 21, 2003


As California Goes, So Goes the Country? (TODD S. PURDUM, September 21, 2003, NY Times)

MORE than 60 years ago, the columnist Westbrook Pegler, noting California's penchant for political experimentation and social turmoil, proposed that a guardian should be appointed and the state declared incompetent to manage its own affairs. Last week, California's recall election drama led the columnist George F. Will to call it "the sick man of the Republic."

It has always been easy for the rest of the country to bash California, and to dismiss its self-conscious Left Coast exceptionalism as just that. In fact, California has a state constitution and a long cultural tradition that allow for an unusual degree of political volatility, through citizen referendums, ballot initiatives and, yes, electoral recall. [...]

But with its particularly broad powers of referendum, California provides the rest of the country with examples of what can happen when voters get their way, unfiltered by politicians or legislators.

If Gray Davis did nothing else worthwhile in his political career--a strong possibility--he's at least gotten even the Left to admitting that too much democracy is a singularly bad idea.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 21, 2003 5:13 PM

That's a massive misreading of the Will quote on Purdum's part, as anyone who read the first paragraph on this blog can tell you. Will was caling Cali the "sick man of the republic" for reasons completely seperate from (though certainly not unrelated to) the recall business.

But, as has been mentioned multiple times before, apparently nobody edits the Times.

Posted by: Timothy at September 21, 2003 6:10 PM

What California is demonstrating are the limits of a unitary republic. It, along with perhaps New York, Texas and Florida, should be broken up into smaller, more coherent and managable units. (And just separate Chicago from the rest of Ilinois). As a side benefit, those states would, in effect, get more representation in the US Senate, too. As encouragement, there needs to be an amendment to the Constitution limiting the number of representatives in the House from any one state to, say 5% of the total number.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 21, 2003 7:25 PM

Does anyone else object to the statement "unfiltered by politicians or legislators"? One wonders why the author didn't add "...and the New York Times". More direct democracy may be messy, but it is far preferable to a pretentious media elitist oligarchy.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 21, 2003 8:18 PM

Strongly agree with Mr. Hamlen.

In recent years, the California voters have come out right on every genuinely important issue they've been permitted to vote on: ending "bilingual education" (Prop 227); ending state anti-white racism in admissions and contracting (Prop 209); and combating the inundation of illegal aliens (Prop 187).

That's a better record than the Supreme Court, Congress, and the President put together.

Of course, Prop 187 was later dismantled by the federal courts, who seemed to share OJ's view that there was altogether "too much democracy" going on.

Posted by: Ratiocinator at September 21, 2003 9:07 PM

The current budgetary mess was NOT created by the citizen's initiatives, but by the Legislature and the Governors.

Of course, those officials, in the end, merely gave the people what they asked for. The fact that the will of the people is dysfunctional, and that elected officials are supposed to give the people what they NEED, instead, merely deepens the irony.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 22, 2003 4:33 AM