California’s Democrats Have No Excuses Now

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

There is no excuse for California Democrats not to remake our governing system now.

They no longer can blame a cautious, fiscally conservative governor. He’s retiring, and he’s being replaced by a man who ran on “Courage, for a Change.” That governor takes office with more power than any governor in the history of the state (for reasons I previously explained here).

Supermajority blocks on constitutional changes no longer provide an excuse. Because Democrats will have 2/3 supermajorities in the legislature again. And they should be able to hold onto them this time.

The Democratic supermajorities can also begin the process of calling a constitutional convention. They don’t have any excuse not to.

And they can’t use Trump as an excuse either. Indeed, Trump—and the horror show that is our current federal government—provides a reason why the state needs a new governing system now.

California is in a fight with the feds, and not only over specific policies. It’s in a contest to show that the American future can be more Californian—open, democratic, free, inclusive, welcoming—against a vision that embraces fear, walls and xenophobia.
It’s vital that California win that contest.

But our current governing system makes it hard for us to win the fight. It is so weird and perverse that it makes Californians look bad. And it provides too many obstacles to Trumpists and others who want to tie the state in knots and make us look bad.

The only way to have a true governing party in this state involves structural reform that unwinds such obstacles. Democrats could now accomplish that structural reform.

The question now is whether they want to make the state much better governed. Or they prefer the crutch of old excuses.

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