A State of Civic Dejection: Despondent in California

“It’s a feeling of…like we’ve peaked.”

Roughly 80 percent of respondents to a recent LA Times/USC poll say California is on the wrong track. Has the demand for change also peaked? Most respondants indicate fatalistic resignation over California’s declining fortunes. USC scholar Dan Schur notes,”You get angry when you think you can make a difference and make change…But the predominant mood of the electorate in California seems to be “What’s the use?”

Contrast this despair with California’s culture of direct democracy and political activism. Since 1911, Californians have had the ability to enact legislation by directly placing  measures on the ballot. This has allowed Californians to not only enact laws but also amend the state’s Constitution. California Supreme Court Justice Robert George believes the system is dysfunctional. He offers three recommendations to rein it in, including letting the legislature into the process.

Not everyone is convinced all is lost.  Repair California aims to place a measure on the November 2010 ballot to empower the people to call a Constitutional Convention in order to fix the rules under which California governs, including (perhaps ironically) the I&R process.