The Liberal Plot to Save California
What can reform-minded Democrats learn from the worst state government in America?
Even before last week's progressipocalypse, there was a growing sentiment among those on the left that the American political process had some serious mud in its tires. And not just in Washington, either. Perhaps nowhere is democratic decay more pronounced than in MoJo's home base of California.
The state's problems have been well documented (here's a helpful introduction), but no single element has been more problematic than Prop 13, the 1978 constitutional amendment which stipulates that any tax-raising measure requires a virtually unattainable two-thirds majority in Sacramento. With revenues no longer keeping pace with the state’s needs, the cash-strapped government has been forced to slash essential services and issue I.O.Us to creditors. But help may finally be on the way: University of California-Berkeley professor George Lakoff, a linguist who was once dubbed "the father of framing" by the New York Times Magazine, is pushing to effectively repeal Prop 13 via a referendum this November.
"The linguistics is interesting," Lakoff told me after a recent event in San Leandro. "When you say 'supermajority' it sounds like it's more democratic, when it's actually anti-democratic. It's that little twist on language that's there, and I think people had no idea about the reality of what was happening—that this is the only state in the union where there was total rule by a conservative minority."