Democracy Won Big in 2018

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As partisan gridlock and political turmoil roils the national scene, California Forward’s leaders have grounded our actions and reactions in the confidence that democracies are designed to be resilient.

We have experienced that resiliency here in California with Proposition 11 in 2008, which created citizens’ redistricting; Proposition 14 in 2010, which opened the primary system so all voters could choose from all of the candidates; and, Proposition 28 in 2012, which modified term limits. A number of other political and fiscal reforms have been instigated over the last decade by coalitions of civic organizations like California Forward and the California Forward Action Fund, which worked on all of these measures and more.

That same capacity for self-correction is playing out in other states and gained considerable momentum in 2018. 

As Katherine M. Gehl and Michael E. Porter wrote in The Hill today:

“From Maine to California and in states and municipalities in between, voters chose to put Country Over Party and to loudly demand that public elections should serve voters and not the self-interested political parties.

“In fact, perhaps not since the Progressive Era of the early 20th Century has there been such widespread, influential, and catalytic political reforms passed in such short order. It’s not hyperbole that in 2018, Democracy won big at the ballot box on a statewide level.”

Ms. Gehl and Mr. Porter are the honorary co-chairs of the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers. CA Fwd is a founding member of this coalition and CA Fwd Co-Chair Lenny Mendonca is a founding board member.

NANR coalesced in 2017 as state-based reform organizations like CA Fwd realized we were making progress, and connecting and learning from each other could accelerate that progress. We also were motivated by hope, if not faith, that state-based reform would eventually change the climate in Washington, D.C. so national reforms could take hold.

CA Fwd did its part to catalyze this connectivity with the 50 State Solution pilot project and event in January 2017, which brought leaders from across the country together to exchange ideas and opportunities. New America Foundation carried that conversation forward with its Laboratories of Democracy project.

This year, CA Fwd went back to some of California’s elected leaders and influencers and asked their assessment of the impact of California’s reforms. CA Fwd Co-Chairs Lenny Mendonca and Pete Weber reflected on the assessment earlier this year, concluding that, while no reforms are perfect, the reforms in California have enabled elected leaders to better represent their districts and work across party lines, and even across factions in their own party, to solve problems.

Today – December 21, 2018 – is the winter solstice. In some ways, the days ahead will be cold, dark and stormy. But from the earliest times, our species marked this date as a turning point, and celebrated with confidence that spring would eventually renew the earth.

Let’s celebrate with confidence that with citizen involvement democracy is being similarly renewed. 


Jim Mayer

All stories by: Jim Mayer