The collective ethos of dysfunction has made obtaining a supermajority in the California Legislature seemingly the only way to govern.
California, with its quirky initiative process by which voters attempt to solve one problem by creating another, has become a place that necessitated a supermajority in order to balance budgets without gimmicks and avoid needless gridlock. But to accomplish what most would assume to be routine duties of a legislative body, California had to create an atmosphere where one party had absolutely no skin in the game.
This is hardly a long-term solution for a system that works best when utilizing compromise. Moreover, single party dominance inevitably leads to arrogance.
Arrogance may ultimately be the reason three California Democratic state senators, Leland Yee, Ron Calderon, and Roderick Wright, who were recently suspended with pay because of legal troubles.
It started as a small leak, when Wright was convicted on fraud charges for falsifying his address so he could get elected in the district where he did not live. Not long after Wright's conviction, Calderon was indicted on federal corruption charges.
Calderon is charged with accepting nearly $100,000 in bribes as well as gourmet meals and high-priced golf games in exchange for actions on legislation.
If Calderon's actions symbolized a noticeable crack in the Democrat's supermajority, the dam burst with the news of Yee. The San Francisco Democrat has been indicted on charges that seem more appropriate for a Martin Scorsese movie, including attempting to facilitate arms sales to a terrorist group.
Granted, such charges alone do not necessarily lead to a conviction. But it is disconcerting when those who have achieved their positions by gaining the public's trust would be accused of such infractions.
When one party, as the Democrats in California, dominate the Legislature as well as hold every constitutional office statewide it usually suggests two possibilities.
First, the opposition, as indicated by the state of California's Republican Party, is weak. California Democrats recent domination speaks more about Republican ineptitude than the superiority of Democratic ideas. Second, a political party that is as dominant as Democrats in recent years will eventually be infiltrated by arrogance.
Not to mitigate the seriousness of the charges against the senators, but it is predictable that single political party domination in a two-party system will lead to unbridled arrogance.
House Republicans experienced similar in the previous decade, led by the conviction of Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
Though politicians may argue to the contrary, both parties need each other. It is a key counterbalance that can guard against overextension and the unhealthy reliance on self-importance.
Yee, Calderon, and Wright are the latest examples of political arrogance, resulting from single party domination. But the irony is that California can only demonstrate some semblance of normalcy when it has one-party domination that will inevitably lead to arrogance and corruption.
California is in the bottom quartile in poverty, unemployment, and student achievement. It is still burdened by debt, and unfunded pension liabilities that some estimates have in excess of $350 billion.
Meanwhile, California is thrown back into a debilitating status quo--a de facto single dominant party system with minority rule when there is no supermajority.
What does it say about the state, if securing a supermajority is the only way California can appear manageable? Though understandable, expelling Yee, Calderon, and Wright does not solve what ails the state. The recent corruption and arrogance are merely the latest symptoms of a malady that has plagued California for decades.
So where do we go from here?
For starters, Democrats need a viable Republican Party to compete against them. Republicans need a political vision reflective of the state. And the electorate must come to the conclusion that the initiative process has proven to be an equal partner in cultivating California's dysfunctional culture.