The Voters Set the Democrats Free — Will They Act Like it?

(This is a guest post by George Lakoff.  We will have more to say here on the special election results — we think that this is bigger than just complaints about spending or taxes or politicians.  What the people are crying out for is reform of the broken system of governance in California.  George says the results of this election present the Democrats with an opportunity to accomplish that.)

Hooray! The outrageous propositions 1 A-E have been crushed by voters who just can’t take any more.

California voters have rejected the nonfunctional minority-rule government that has bankrupted the state, along with the governor who led the state into bankruptcy.
The voters want a functional democracy, and that means majority rule. No more blackmail by a 1/3 plus 1 Republican minority.
In short, the voters have given the Democrats a new freedom – if they will only take it.

The Democratic leadership should listen to its grassroots. They should
immediately stop negotiating with the governor and other Republicans on
how to destroy even more of what makes our state human. The Democrats,
as a whole body, not just the leadership, should assert their majority,
decide for themselves how they want to deal with the shortfall, and
then invite the defeated Republicans publicly to join them and take
their proposals to the public, first organizing serious grassroots

What is the point of doing this if the Democrats still
don’t have the 2/3 votes to pass a budget bill? The point is drama!
Most Californians are not aware of the minority rule situation. This
could dramatize it and place the blame where it belongs. Drama matters.
There might still be a later compromise. But the drama would set the
stage for a 2010 ballot initiative.

The Democratic leadership
should immediately take the initiative on a 2010 ballot measure, a
supremely simple one-sentence measure. It would go something like this:

All budgetary and revenue issues shall be decided by a majority vote in both houses of the legislature.

One sentence. Simple. Straightforward. Understandable. And democratic. It should be called the California Democracy Act. From grade school on, we associate democracy with majority rule. It will make sense to voters – at last!

The term “revenue” would cover taxes without waving a red flag.

to now, Democrats have been acting like sheep being herded by the
Republican minority. They need to show courage and stand up for what
they believe. That’s what the voters are waiting for.

On the 2010 ballot initiative:

Get rid of the 55% proposals. People understand that majority rule means democracy. 55% means nothing.

if you don’t address taxes and just address the budget process, the
Republicans will still say you’re going to raise taxes. You may as well
go for real democracy.

And finally, get a unified message
that can be supported by the grassroots. Do grassroots organizing for
2010, starting now. Organize spokespeople to get that message out.
Organize bookers to book your spokespeople in the media. You Democrats
are a majority. Act like it. The public will respect you for it.

example, if the Republicans claim that this vote showed a tax
rebellion, point out that only Prop 1a was about taxes. The other
propositions failed. And the voters rejected a spending cap. What are
you waiting for, you Democrats.  You have been set free.

If it
is claimed that the vote was meaningless because so few people went to
the polls, reply that the refusal to vote on these propositions was
itself a vote against having such an election and such a lame way of
running the state.
The voters have spoken. You Democratic office-holders have chance to come out on the side of the voters. Take it!

Lakoff is the author of The Political Mind, just out in paperback. He
is Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics
at the University of California at Berkeley.

2 thoughts on “The Voters Set the Democrats Free — Will They Act Like it?

  1. This guy is delusional. The 2/3 requirements was enacted in 1978 (Prop 13) by 66% of the population. Prop 56 in 2004 that would have lowered it to 55% was defeated by 66%. 1A had funding of 19 million pro and 2 million against. 1A lost in every single county in the state including San Francisco and Alameda County. Statewide it lost by 66%.
    Hear this. The SUPER-Majority has said NO! If nothing else, considering the anti 1A group was out spent by a factor of 10. I ask you… Who are the grassroots people.. It’s not the Teachers union who alone spent 4 times the amount the entire No campaign.
    I dare you to put that on the 2010 ballot.. IT WILL BE DEFEATED BY 66% OR MORE!
    Also, you state this was a defeat of a spending cap. There was no spending cap in that bill. The real spending cap was telling Sacramento they have to balance the budget with what they have. PERIOD!

  2. But I thought that “raw majoritarianism” was a bad thing? Oh, except for raising taxes. For enacting liberal policies raw majoritarianism is just handy dandy. Why it’s democracy. Why sometimes you don;t even need democracy, just a random bureaucrat or unelected judge. To enact conservative policies you have to jump through 87 hoops and pass a constitutional amendment (assuming the CaliSupreme’s even accept the amendment).

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