Last month, the California legislature did something unheard of — by Washington, D.C., standards. They came together across party lines to amend and extend sweeping cap and trade emissions legislation. Business, agriculture, labor and environmentalists all had a seat at the table. By 2030, California’s population is expected to grow by five million people, yet our greenhouse gas emissions will shrink to 40 percent below 1990 levels. In this era of cynicism and gridlock, how is this possible? The answer may surprise you. It’s not because California is a “blue” state. If that were the reason, New York would be leading the country in legislative innovation, not state house scandals and indictments. Seven years ago, Californians overhauled the political system so that voters have more choices and politicians are incentivized to cooperate and innovate, not grandstand and polemicize.
To get different results, you have to change the structure. California now has a political system that allows the state to address 21st century challenges instead of wallow in 20th century partisanship.
Since Watergate, there has been a great debate about how to fix our broken political system. Most people asked “How do we get the money out of politics?” Californians asked “How do we get the politics out of politics?” Their answer was to enact, via ballot referendum, public open primaries and a public redistricting commission. The political parties still recruit candidates, raise money, and advocate for policy, but they no longer control drawing districts or the primary ballot. The combined results of these reforms has been nothing short of miraculous — for the voters, and for elected officials.