DEATH OF THE...

DEATH OF THE BALLOT INITIATIVES. I'm really surprised by today's E.J. Dionne column on the defeat of Proposition 82. Unlike Matt, I don't think it makes many good points. Rather, I think it determinedly ignores, or simply doesn't know, the crucial one: What Dionne identifies as "voter skepticism about public spending" is really a profound fatigue for and increasingly negative disposition towards ballot initiatives. Remember, if you will, all the way back to the heady days of 2005, when no less than eight ballot initiatives, all from wildly different ends of the ideological spectrum, went down to ignominious defeat. Proposition 75, a poison pill that would've limited union funds under the guise of offering union members "paycheck protection" from paying dues, failed. Proposition 76, a conservative effort to impose spending limits on the state, got crushed, 37 percent to 62 percent.

Truth is, the ballot initiatives have become such an annoying element of Californian public life that the voters have taken an apparently principled stance against voting for any of them. Ever again. That the preschool initiative -- already struggling because its sponsor, Rob Reiner, seemed to have diverted tens of millions of dollars in public funds to help promote his pet causes -- lost is no surprise, and certainly no clear condemnation of its values and reach. As Dionne noted, it led in the polls for quite awhile, only falling to defeat once folks saw it on the ballot. If the rejection of such an apparently popular initiative proves anything, it's that the initiative process itself has become a kiss of death for anything it offers, and it's time to stop using it. And as a Californian who's seen the havoc that various pleasant-sounding but poorly constructed initiatives have wreaked on our budget, I'll be the first to say "good riddance."

--Ezra Klein

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