Democrats Whiff Again on Real Constitutional Reform

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)

Democrats, among many others, are publicly pledging to take on racist systems. But they are not using their huge supermajorities to take on the original racist system in the state: our state constitution.

Sure they are putting a few small amendments on the November ballot, including one permitting affirmative action. But the whole constitution is itself bathed in racism all the way back to its approval in 1879, after a convention led by the explicitly racist Workingmen’s Party, whose slogan was, “The Chinese Must Go.”

Democrats, with well more than two-thirds in both houses, have the power to ask the voters to amend our core systems of taxation and budgeting, but they don’t. They even have the power to ask voters to call a constitutional convention—which would allow California to draft a new governing document that is grounded in 21st century ideas of equity and equality. 

Think of it a modern, anti-racist constitution! The opportunity is just sitting there. Why won’t Democrats live up to their promises to fight racism and take it?

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