It’s Not Just Trump. California Labor Unions Are Trying To Reverse the Outcome of an Election Too.
In his first inaugural address in January 1911, California’s progressive Gov. Hiram Johnson detailed a far-reaching “people’s reform program” that would help wrest control of the state’s government from what his contemporaries called “The Octopus”—a reference to muckraker Frank Norris’ 1901 novel about the outsized power of Southern Pacific Railroad.
As Norris explained, the Cyclopean sea monster was a “symbol of a vast power, huge, terrible, flinging the echo of its thunder over all the reaches of the valley, leaving blood and destruction in its path.” Drawing heavily from that corporate-power theme, the new governor touted something that would define California politics for the next century: the initiative, recall, and referendum.
California’s emerging experiment in direct democracy would “prevent the misuse of the power temporarily centralized in the Legislature,” Johnson argued, noting that supporters of these reforms believed in the ability of the people to govern themselves. However opponents “may phrase their opposition, in reality (they) believe the people cannot be trusted.”
Ironically, modern California’s progressives have become increasingly hostile to the direct democracy concept, as evidenced by their repeated attempts to place limits on these voter initiatives. The reason has less to do with political ideology and more to do with raw political power.
Democrats exert ironclad control of the Legislature and don’t like the Johnson era’s checks on its power. For example, the state’s Democratic-heavy electorate nevertheless took remarkably conservative positions on the statewide ballot initiatives during the Nov. 3 election—and gave lawmakers a comeuppance on some key issues.
We’ve seen these anti-democratic tendencies arise in recent days, which is ironic timing given the fracas in Washington, D.C. I’ve also been appalled at Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of a legitimate presidential election even as 60-plus courts, state legislatures, and federal agencies rebuke his claims. Apparently, California Democrats now share Trump’s litigious approach: they support elections, but only if they yield the desired result.
For starters, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced last week a lawsuit challenging the results of Proposition 22, which exempted drivers for companies such as Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash from the ominous provisions of Assembly Bill 5. That’s the “landmark” legislation that mostly bans companies from using contractors as their workforce.
The voters were unequivocal, given that the proposition passed with a nearly 59-percent “yes” vote. That result is not a huge surprise. The law obliterated moderate-income service jobs—and not just in the burgeoning gig economy. Because of the blowback from freelancers losing their livelihoods in the midst of a pandemic, the Legislature exempted 100 industries from this bad law’s provisions.
In their wisdom, California voters adde
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