California is in deep trouble because it has a dysfunctional system of government.
Much of the problem can be change by one sentence.
I have sent to the attorney general a ballot proposition for the 2010 ballot
called The California Democracy Act, the content of which is the following:
All legislative action on revenue and budget must be determined by a majority
It would change two words in the Constitution, turning “two-thirds”
to “majority” in two places. It is simple, understandable and it is
I will be speaking on this in Los Angeles Thursday night. (See note below.)
As I see it, democracy is the main issue in the governance of our state. The
two-thirds rules have an anti-democratic effect. Our legislature is currently
under minority rule. One-third plus one – only 34 percent -of either
the Assembly or Senate can block the will of the majority until their demands
are met. This is undemocratic.
Minority rule is why we have gridlock in the legislature. Minority rule has
brought our state to near bankruptcy, causing crises throughout the state.
A majority of California voters have elected a majority of the state legislators,
and that majority is responsible and, so far as I can tell, overwhelmingly dedicated
to sane fiscal management and to serving the needs of our citizens. But they
are handcuffed by minority rule.
Democracy can work in California. What the majority of voters want, a majority
in the legislature will enact. And it only takes a majority of voters to enact
that one-sentence amendment.
Changing the vote requirement to a majority for budget and revenue will ensure
that California’s budget can meet the state’s needs and be passed on time. One
sentence can end economic uncertainty and provide for an improved credit rating,
for payment of our bills with money instead of IOUs, and will bring stability
to our schools, nursing homes and universities. One sentence can make California
a well-run state again.
How does minority rule happen? By trickery. Don’t be fooled. The way a minority
of one-third plus one comes to run the show is by imposing a 2/3 rule. It may
sound more democratic, but it is less democratic. It allows a minority to rule
by gridlock, by thwarting the will of the majority in the legislature, and hence,
a majority of the voters in the state.
No other state is run by such a minority. In no other state can a ruthless
minority cause the chaos, disruption, pain and near-bankruptcy that our state
has suffered. A majority of the voters can end the tyranny of the minority.
Democracy means majority rule. One sentence will do the job.
Of course, there will be a blowback. Conservatives will say, as they always
do, that this is just a ruse to raise taxes.
But this is about democracy, not about how or whether revenues are raised.
What the majority of citizens want, a majority of elected representatives will
enact. The question is simple: Do you want democracy?
Here’s what government is about in a democracy. Government has two sacred moral
missions: to protect and empower its citizens.
Protection starts with police and public safety and extends to protection for
consumers, for our food, for workers, for the elderly, for those sick and helpless,
for the environment and for investors.
Empowerment is what allows us to earn a living and live decent lives: public
roads and buildings; a working power grid; water; a basic educational system;
a system of public health and nursing homes; a system of higher education with
advanced research in medicine, computing, and agriculture; banks and insurance
companies you can trust and a court system that works.
No one earns a living in California without protection and empowerment by the
government. No one makes it without all of these things. Without them, the California
Dream becomes a nightmare. Without revenue and a sensible budget, there can
be no protection and no empowerment, and the world’s seventh largest and richest
economy starts to look like a third-world country.
Minority rule is closing California. State parks: closed. Schools: closed.
Fire departments: closed. Nursing homes: closed. Medical clinics: closed. Libraries:
We do not have to stand for it.
The majority of voters choose the majority of legislators. That’s simple democracy.
When the majority of legislators rule, the majority of voters rule.
Can this work? It can, with strong support. What is needed is a serious campaign
making the case for democracy, and allowing the voters to see that minority
rule is the root of the problem.
Since the minority is a strongly conservative Republican minority, progressive
Democrats running for the legislature in 2010 can run on a prodemocracy platform,
placing the blame for gridlock where it belongs, on their opponents.
The main question is whether we can run such a campaign successfully. That
is simply a matter of organization, commitment, support, and funding. None of
those is trivial. But we know how to do them.
Note: Professor Lakoff will be speaking Thursday night in
Los Angeles, California, to a coalition meeting of a wide variety of organizations
dedicated to ending the 2/3 rules.
Where: SEIU 721
500 S. Virgil Los Angeles, CA 90020
Auditorium (Located on the first floor)
or call (323) 939-5475