In the past century, California has grown a convoluted governing nonsystem that combines the hyper-democracy of the initiative process with the increasingly constricted representative democracy of the formal elective governmental system, most of it imposed by direct democracy. Particularly in the past three decades, the initiative process, driven by a radically changed political culture and reinforced by a spectrum of new technologies, has come close to overwhelming representative democracy. By their very nature, initiatives either require or prohibit specified actions of the ordinary government. As legislatures, governors, county supervisors, city councils, and school boards—and sometimes the courts as well—become more constrained and unable to cope, public frustration increases, producing yet more demands for ballot solutions. As a consequence, the past thirty years have produced vicious cycles of initiatives in which one measure leads to another. The ultimate effect of that dynamic is not just to cloud government accountability but, in the end, the accountability of the voters themselves.
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