Blockbuster Democracy

California Politics: The State of Play

February 26, 2010

Joe Mathews, a fourth-generation Californian and longtime student of Golden State politics, is an Irvine Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation. In this podcast, Mathews discusses the upcoming gubernatorial race, the long-running fiscal crisis, and the basket of problems that awaits whomever replaces Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Hummer and Schwarzenegger: They Probably Won't Be Back

  • By
  • Joe Mathews,
  • New America Foundation
February 28, 2010 |

General Motors' decision last week to shut down its Hummer brand is not merely one more sour note in a car-industry chorus of bailouts and bad brakes. It also appears to be the final chapter of a star-crossed love story, an American marriage of one man and one machine that couldn't endure because of a hard truth: Even the biggest things don't stay big forever.

The man, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was responsible for bringing the machine, Hummer, to prominence.

Meg Whitman's Brilliant Hiding Game

  • By
  • Joe Mathews,
  • New America Foundation
February 21, 2010 |

What does eBay CEO-turned-California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman have in common with Muhammad Ali?

A strategy called rope-a-dope.

Rope-a-dope takes its name from a 1974 fight in Zaire, when the champ spent the first several rounds taking a beating so that his bigger opponent, George Foreman, would exhaust himself from all the punches. Having survived this early assault, Ali knocked out an exhausted Foreman later in the fight.

Taking the ink out of Signatures

  • By
  • Joe Mathews,
  • New America Foundation
February 14, 2010 |

A few weeks ago, a statewide ballot initiative petition signed by a California voter named Michael Ni was delivered -- quietly and without fanfare -- to the clerk's office in San Mateo County.

Strange as it may sound, this is no exaggeration: Ni's John Hancock may reshape American politics forever.

What Does California's Initiative Process Mean for the World?

Monday, February 22, 2010 - 12:00pm

California is hardly the only place where voters, through initiative and referendum, make important decisions about government. As the state struggles with persistent budgetary and political problems, the world has been watching, with a combination of wonder and horror. What do direct democrats around the world think as they look at California? What might California learn from the world about its direct democratic system? And what might the rest of the world learn from us?

Obama Signals, Berman Leads, Pelosi Protects

November 20, 2009
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Yesterday, three significant statements were made regarding the United States' policy towards Cuba. President Barack Obama, responding to dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, signaled to Congress and Havana his willingness to break the stalemate on Cuba policy.

The Time Lock Jerry Brown Put on Governors' Papers

  • By
  • Joe Mathews,
  • New America Foundation
November 30, 2009 |

Jerry Brown is in the running for governor again and talking plenty about his first two-term go-round in the office, from 1975 to 1983. "The last time there was real creativity in state government was when I was governor," he said earlier this year.

Utah Political Reform Initiatives Miss One Deadline

November 15, 2009

Today is the deadline for sponsors of two initiatives in Utah -- one to impose new rules on legislative ethics, the other to create an independent redistricting commission -- to turn in enough signatures to force the legislature to act on their ideas. But backers tell the Deseret News they don't have enough sigs to do that.

Does California Need a Title Board?

November 5, 2009

State Sen. George Runner, sponsor of a ballot initiative requiring citizens to show government-issued photo ID before voting, is so angry about the title that Attorney General Jerry Brown gave his measure that he's gone to court to get it changed.

Is Signing a Referendum Petition Like Voting?

October 22, 2009

The U.S. Supreme Court seems to think so. In voting 8-1 to block an appeals court ruling that would have released publicly the names of signers on petitions to qualify Washington's state Referendum 71 for the ballot, the court appears to be taking the position that the act of signing a direct democracy petition is akin to voting in an election. And in this country, voting is private.

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