On Fathers’ Day, Blame it on Dad

Hiram Johnson

It’s a bit of an historical stretch to blame California’s dysfunctions on Dad. And it may seem funny to do it after the legislature passed a budget on time as per our earlier post.  However, commentator Joe Mathews does blame Gov. Hiram Johnson’s father for the dysfunctions of the state’s initiative system. Hiram Johnson was the reform governor elected in 1910 who brought in “direct democracy,” the initiative, referendum, and recall (along with women’s suffrage and workers’ compensation insurance).

From Mathews (excerpt):

Why is California so hard to govern? One reason is that we’re suffering from daddy issues, and this Father’s Day is as good a time as any to confront them. The daddy in question is Grove Johnson, father of one of our most revered governors, Hiram Johnson, who served from 1911 through 1917. Johnson is the governor who convinced Californians to adopt the ballot initiative process in 1911. Many of us revere that process, but it has its problems. And we never address those problems, because our media keep repeating a bogus story: A century ago, the noble and sainted Hiram Johnson created the initiative process to give the people of California the power to fight the railroad and other powerful interests. But over a century, we Californians—and especially our special interests and rich people—have corrupted the people’s process into something Johnson never intended. This tale is bunk, for two reasons. First, the problems of today’s initiative process (big money, interest-group domination, and public confusion) were present—and much rued—from the very beginning. Second, the biggest flaw of the initiative process—the flaw that makes California so hard to govern today—was not the fault of today’s Californians. It was introduced by Johnson himself. Yes, Johnson sabotaged the initiative process. But how—and why? The answer lies in the story of a toxic relationship between father and son…
What Hiram never sang for his father:
And for a more patriotic view of dad, we offer: