The Economist: California Ungovernable

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Ben Cohen
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By Ben Cohen

According to the Economist, things don't look rosy for the sunshine state:

California has a unique combination of features which, individually,
are shared by other states but collectively cause dysfunction. These
begin with the requirement that any budget pass both houses of the
legislature with a two-thirds majority. Two other states, Rhode Island
and Arkansas, have such a law. But California, where taxation and
budgets are determined separately, also requires two-thirds majorities
for any tax increase. Twelve other states demand this. Only California,
however, has both requirements.

If its representative democracy functioned well, that might not be
so debilitating. But it does not. Only a minority of Californians
bother to vote, and those voters tend to be older, whiter and richer
than the state’s younger, browner and poorer population, says Steven
Hill at the New America Foundation, a think-tank that is analysing the
options for reform.

Those voters, moreover, have over time “self-sorted” themselves into
highly partisan districts: loony left in Berkeley or Santa Monica, for
instance; rabid right in Orange County or parts of the Central Valley.
Politicians have done the rest by gerrymandering bizarre boundaries
around their supporters. The result is that elections are won during
the Republican or Democratic primaries, rather than in run-offs between
the two parties. This makes for a state legislature full of mad-eyed
extremists in a state that otherwise has surprising numbers of
reasonable citizens.