The Ex-Governors As Initiative Warriors

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)

Old California governors don’t die. They just play initiative politics.

Just look at our two most recent ex-governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown. They’ve gone beyond the past ex-governor practice of endorsing the occasional measure to being major players in the system.

They are using more than their names or political brands. They are also using their financial resources.

Gov. Brown left office with $15 million in a campaign account that could be used for ballot measures. He’s using that money to protect his policy legacy. Notably, he donated $1 million to the campaign against Prop 20, a law enforcement-backed effort to reverse criminal justice reforms he pursued in office.

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, has been a supporter, and funder through various means, of redistricting reform measures around the country, thus defending and extending his own redistricting reforms here in California. That’s on top of his global support of climate change policies at the sub-national level, many of which get enacted via direct democracy. He’s also taken on the vital task of support access to the ballot this fall.

Joel Fox, on this site, has often spoken of people involved in California direct democracy as “initiative warriors,” because of the close (and dismaying) parallels between the strategy of initiative campaigns and the strategy of warfare. 

It seems now that, while governors are limited to two terms, defending your governorship means that you can never put down your initiative sword

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