About 100 years ago, a populist Republican Governor here in California believed that the stranglehold of special interests in the capitol could be broken if the people had more say in their government.
Hiram Johnson knew that his belief in accountability and transparency were the populist key to seeing more government. Indeed, he knew it would lead to a state liberated from the grips of powerful political groups and parties in Sacramento.
Johnson’s legacy was a state that had the most direct democratic system in the country. His reforms included the initiative, recall and referendum processes. Against vested interests across the state, he stood with the people, and ultimately against his party, when it became clear that it had strayed from its promise to serve the people of California. To illustrate the gravity of Johnson’s opposition in these efforts, the reforms he instituted broke the back of the railroads that literally owned and ran the state government.