Reform California's Undemocratic Recall

 The ability to recall elected officials was supposed to make California’s political system more democratic. Those paying attention have become aware of how truly dysfunctional the California recall process is, now with Gavin Newsom fixed in its sites. The California recall has a combination of features that gives a minority party, in this case the Republicans, a good chance of grabbing power without majority support.   In order to appreciate California’s uniquely undemocratic recall process, it’s useful to contrast that process with those of other states. According to the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures, and some additional research, almost all the 19 states that permit recall of state officers can be divided into three groups: (1) five states have a single, simultaneous recall and replacement election, in which the officer subject to the recall appears on the ballot alongside the candidates seeking to replace him or her, and the recall will fail if the off

On Mask Mandate Bans

 Permitting mask mandates in places where the spread of Covid 19 is high seems like a no brainer. Yet it has become a subject of great controversy, with some Republican governors mandating a ban on mask mandates, overriding the judgments of local government and school officials that requiring mask wearing in indoor spaces is the best way to protect the public health. What’s going on here? One way to think about the current dispute is in terms of two different ideas of freedom, one derived from our Constitution, the other coming from our Culture Wars.   First, some background. The evidence is clear that masks can both significantly protect the wearer against the virus, depending on the mask, and, even more, can significantly impede the mask wearer’s ability to transmit the virus. Hence the reported case in Springfield, Missouri where two hairstylists infected by Covid but wearing masks did not infect the 139 customers with whom they came in contact. Because those infected with Covid a

The Road to Fascism

Over the past 100 years there have been numerous revolutions and movements that have overthrown authoritarian regimes. Russia (1917) and China (1949) were among those that, despite their initial promise, reverted to a form of autocracy worse than before. Hitler and Mussolini, however, came into power by democratic means, then subverted their democracies to authoritarianism. There have been other countries that have overcome authoritarian regimes recently that initially moved in the direction of democracy, but many have succumbed to autocracy and seem to be heading toward actual fascism. They are deteriorating into what Steven Livitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, in their book How Democracies Die , describe as democracies that have gone very wrong: Democracies may die at the hands not of generals but of elected leaders – presidents or prime ministers who subvert the very process that brought them to power. Some of these leaders dismantle democracy quickly, as Hitler did in the wake of the R

Interview With James Madison

 You hear a lot from conservatives these days about the "original meaning of the Constitution," which they claim to know. So I decided to ask the guy who knows more about the Constitution than anyone living or (in his case) dead, James Madison. Madison more than anyone is responsible for the final document. Our dialogue went something like this.                  -So Mr. Madison -James please -Okay James. Let me start by asking you about the Supreme Court decision from about 10 years ago, Citizens United. Congress put limits on the ability of corporations to give to political campaigns. -Corporations? Giving money to political campaigns? -Yeah. That’s a thing nowadays -Do political campaigns really need a lot of money? -Are you kidding? Money for TV advertising -TV? -Microtargeted internet ads … -Are you even speaking English? -Look take my word for it. Politicians need boat loads of money these days. And corporations have a lot of money they’re willing t