There is a mass delusion afflicting millions of Californians. They endure a cost-of-living nearly twice the national average, high taxes, the highest incidence of poverty, the most hostile business climate, some of the worst K-12 schools, well over a $1.0 trillion in bond and pension debt, unaffordable homes, among the highest prices in the nation for gasoline and electricity, water rationing, and they drive on congested and decaying roads and freeways.
Yet the latest PPIC poll, released this month, finds 49 percent of likely voters approve of Governor Newsom’s job performance, and 47 percent approve of the state legislature.
Meanwhile, on the streets and in the parks of every major California city, over 150,000 homeless people are permanently encamped. Literally tens of thousands of them are either insane, diseased, drug addicts, criminals, or all of the above. As working Californians attempt to keep their shops open, or walk to work, or live in peace, these homeless, who need help, not “lifestyle tolerance,” defecate, shoot heroin, and shriek in terror of schizophrenic demons. But instead of declaring an emergency, Governor Newsom just throws additional billions at what is a well-documented scam, where politically favored cronies build “supportive housing” at average costs of over $500,000 per unit.
Yet this same poll finds that “fifty-eight percent of Californians are optimistic that the governor and legislature will be able to work together and accomplish a lot in the next year.”
This is mass delusion. Because as long as a clique of leftist oligarch cronies and public sector union bosses control everything that happens in California, they will enrich themselves, and none of these problems – homeless, housing prices, cost-of-living, high taxes, etc. – will ever get solved. Eventually, Californians will realize that Newsom and his entire gang’s supposed solutions are scams, and their incessant virtue signaling on issues of social equity and “climate change” are diversionary cons.
California’s Red Pill Moment is Coming
In the movie Matrix there is a scene where the main character is offered a choice: He can take a blue pill and continue to live in a dream world, or he can take the red pill and confront harsh reality. As rebel leader Morpheus warns, “all I can offer you is the truth.”
The truth is this: California is a feudal state masquerading as a democracy. A supermajority of voters are either ultra-wealthy, or they are the well-heeled professional class that serves them, or they are public employees whose pay and benefit packages exempt them from the laws and the costs they impose on everyone else, or they are low income residents who’ve been bought off – some by state funded benefits, others by socialist rhetoric. But it can’t go on.
It will only take a few influential Californians to take the red pill, and accurately view the harsh reality of life for most Californians, and a preference cascade will ensue. By the millions, Californians will suddenly realize that their supposed saviors are actually the exploiters. They will see social justice excess and environmentalist extremism for what it is, cover for the corporations and the bureaucrats to consolidate their power over every aspect of economic life, making it almost impossible for working people to live here.
Overnight, California will transition from having not millions, but tens of millions of engaged, politically disenfranchised residents who want to do something, anything, to save their state. And there is something they can do. They can file state ballot initiatives.
Building An Open Source Ballot Initiative Capacity
The one way Californians can bypass their legislature is via the initiative process, even though that process has been undermined by lawmakers. Recent legislation requires signature gatherers to be paid employees instead of independent contractors, greatly raising costs and liabilities. The minimum one can expect to pay to place an initiative on the California state ballot is $5 million. What if that cost could be reduced by 80 percent?
What if a comprehensive online resource for any state ballot initiative campaign could be developed, posted as open source, and made available to California’s beleaguered serfs? Who cares if the aristocrats also get their hands on it? They don’t need it. They already have all the money in the world, and they already do whatever they want. It doesn’t help them. But for the serfs, direct Democracy restores the balance of power.
With access to lists from well established, supportive grassroots organizations, along with viral endorsements from celebrities and influencers, activist Californians could be driven to a set of online resources that would comprise a one-stop shop for volunteer sustained ballot initiatives, from concept to polling to signature gathering. Those who shared their lists could have input into what initiatives would be promoted. But that would just prime the pump. The project would acquire its own momentum and attract followers who immediately recognize its breakthrough potential. These resources would include:
1 – Central online dashboard – a website that explains the project along with how the initiative process works, and provides links to all areas.
2 – YouTube instructional videos explaining each step in the process (for example, petition downloading and petition verification).
3 – A “polling” module (and report generator) where registrants vote on various initiative concepts.
4 – A status report module showing where various initiative concepts are in the pipeline.
5 – Downloadable petitions that can be printed and signed.
6 – Signature verification module to be utilized by volunteers (with professional assistance) in each county.
The technology for all of this exists. It is an idea whose time has come. In most cases utilizing off-the-shelf plugins (along with gaining access to the current California voter file from the Secretary of State), this entire online resource can easily be built. If it were built as open source and shared, multiple populist insurgencies could operate simultaneously.
Leveraging online technology and volunteers to greatly reduce dependence on paid signature gatherers has already been done by San Diego based Reform California. They successfully put a gas tax repeal measure, Proposition 6, onto the state ballot in November 2018. Although the initiative was defeated, the innovations implemented by Reform California dramatically reduced the cost to qualify their measure for the ballot, and paved the way for future efforts.
There are several populist reforms that would appeal to Californians of all political sentiments and across all backgrounds of income, ethnicity and gender. In education, union work rule reforms, more charter schools and school vouchers would all have broad appeal. In other areas, for example, spending more on water and transportation infrastructure, repealing crippling environmental edicts, reforming the disastrous downgrades of property and drug crimes, changing policies governing treatment of the homeless, and requiring pension fund investment in infrastructure revenue bonds would all have broad appeal. Californians want these reforms, but the legislators won’t do any of it.
This could be a game changer. A slate of activist generated state ballot initiatives with broad populist appeal could offer candidates a platform, it could offer opportunities to educate the electorate on alternatives to the one-party rule, and it gives activists something tangible to work on. Initiatives successfully placed onto the ballot will drain tens, if not hundreds of millions of opposition dollars out of the coffers of the aristocracy, and some of them will still win, transforming the political landscape of California.
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Edward Ring is a co-founder of the California Policy Center and served as its first president. This article originally appeared on the website California Globe.