It’s maddening to watch Democrats play games to preserve a supermajority they don’t even use.

The party has been rightfully criticized for using a budget-related to change the rules to advantage State Senator Josh Newman as he faces a recall in his Orange County District. Now they’ve pushed the Fair Political Practices Commission (including a questionable meeting between a commission and a state senate lawyer) to change contribution limits to benefit Newman.

Such changes don’t make much sense, since they were obvious and thus serve to fuel the recall.

But to examine the bid to protect Newman in a larger context is to induce even more head-scratching. Why hurt the party’s credibility in the service of preserving a legislative supermajority that Democrats don’t seem to value?

Democrats might counter my question by pointing to the very vote that triggered the Newman recall – the two-thirds vote for gas tax increase. Or they could point to the two-thirds vote to renew cap-and-trade.

Those might seem like big votes in a narrow political context. But they were small fry. The gas tax increase is small—and won’t do all that much for roads. The two-thirds for cap and trade drew significant Republican support, and merely extended a program that was popular and in place. These small changes only look big because California’s policy horizons are so small.

Here’s the big picture. The state has governing, tax and budget systems that make doing the big things California needs – on fiscal matters, on tax, on governance, on housing – next to impossible. If you want to make those systemic changes to allow big changes, you need a two-thirds supermajority of the governing party.

But Democrats have shown little inclination to use their supermajority for those changes. That resistance to big change has come from both Gov. Brown and from the top Senate Democrat, Kevin De Leon. And the reluctance to use 2/3 supermajorities isn’t new. When Democrats had similar supermajorities earlier in the decade, they failed to capitalize before legal trouble cost them three senators.

The missed opportunities are huge and fundamental. Even though there are many plans for major tax reform that would produce additional and more predictable revenues while making the tax system more competitive, Democrats haven’t pursued them. Ditto the kind of major constitutional revisions that the budget system needs if we’re going to see the investments the state needs in its badly starved educational and health systems. (Single-payer will require constitutional change, even if the left-wing won’t acknowledge it). And California will need constitutional changes to its local government system and its pension systems to address its future rationally.

The Democrats aren’t pursuing any of this. So why should anyone care if Newman is recalled and the Democrats lose the supermajority they are so reluctant to use?