Magazine April 19, 2021, Issue

Direct Democracy in California

‘Recall Gavin Newsom’ signs at a rally in San Diego, Calif., February 13, 2021 (Bing Guan/Reuters)
Recalls and referendums can check the state’s politicians

California did not invent direct democracy. For that honor, we must look at the New England town meeting, the Swiss cantons, and ancient Athens.

But California is surely at the center of direct democracy today. Its 40 million people make it easily the largest entity to experiment with direct legislation. Californians have proven themselves willing to take on their legislature and either override it or transcend its gridlock. Over the last two generations, California has captured the nation’s attention with initiatives such as Proposition 13 (a property-tax cut) in 1978, Proposition 140 (term limits) in 1990, Proposition 187 (benefits for illegal

This article appears as “Democracy in California” in the April 19, 2021, print edition of National Review.

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In This Issue

I. What Made California Great

II. California's Self-Destruction

III. Can California Be Saved?

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