The Senate pro tem Darrell Steinberg wrapped up the legislative session and then declared he was going to focus on winning 2/3 of the state senate for the Democrats.
Is it possible? Yes, though it won’t be easy. In the Assembly, it’s an even longer-shot.
But let’s say the Democrats get two thirds. Would that be good for the state?
For Republicans and those obsessed with never raising tax rates, the answer is an easy no. But what about for the rest of us?
As someone who wouldn’t mind seeing Californians, and especially wealthy Californians, pay more taxes in order to cover the services they demand, you’d think my answer would be yes. But I’m a firm no. The notion of one party with two thirds – when you think it through – highlights again how problematic, and anti-democratic, supermajorites are, and how broken the California governing system is.
Or to put it another way: It’s not anything particular that Democrats might do with two-thirds that is scary. What’s scary is how difficult it would be to undo anything the Democrats did with two-thirds.
How’s that? Well, the check on a governing party is supposed to be the loss of power. The way it’s supposed to work is this: a party wins a majority and if they use that majority to do things that don’t work out and/or that the people oppose, the people can elect the opposition party into a majority, and let them undo what the previous majority did, or do new things.
That’s healthy. But things don’t work that way in a system where the real power is only with the party with a supermajority.
Yes, if Democrats were to use 2/3 to overreach or do things that don’t turn out well, California voters could step in, and there would probably be enough anger for the Republicans to strip the Democrats of their supermajority.
But the Republicans wouldn’t be able to undo anything the Democrats did. Because to do that, they would have to win their own supermajority – and that’s impossible. Indeed, a legislative majority is out of reach for the current GOP, given the party’s weakness and the current election system, which enhances the numbers of the majority party.
This reality would make a Democratic 2/3 supermajority completely – and permanently — unaccountable. This shouldn’t surprise us. Supermajorities undermine accountability. But Californians have only seen one side of this equation—the way that a minority party in a supermajority system can take hostages and block policy without feeling much in the way of consequences.
If you want to fix California and its supermajority-mad system, electing one party to a supermajority isn’t a solution. It’s only a way to magnify the problem. Getting rid of the supermajorities is.