Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

California’s political dysfunction has evolved from a theory first advanced by a few jaundiced observers a generation ago – including yours truly – to a widely embraced axiom that has spawned endless journalistic, academic and civic discourse.

While there’s broad agreement on symptoms of California’s malaise, such as chronic budget deficits, there’s wide disagreement on its causes and what might be done to correct it.

Reformers divide roughly into two camps: Those who believe that tweaking political processes incrementally can make government work again, and those who contend there’s a more fundamental disconnect that can be cured only by creating a new structure attuned to 21st-century reality.

The latter approach, which would require a constitutional convention, hasn’t gotten very far because of its inherent complexity and riskiness.

Meanwhile, incrementalists enjoy strong support from wealthy foundations and individuals who are naturally skeptical of blowing up governmental boxes and starting from scratch.

The foundations backed an effort called California Forward, a consortium of civic and political figures that backed such incremental reforms as an independent redistricting commission and a “top-two” primary election system, both of which were endorsed by voters.

Many of those involved with California Forward then segued into the Think Long Committee for California, bankrolled by billionaire Nicholas Berggruen’s personal foundation, which on Monday unveiled its incremental prescription for California.

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