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Posted July 6, 2004
The California Republic: A Review
Karl Marx once said that ''the most important thing' to have occurred in America was 'the discovery of gold in California.'' While this may have been a bit of an exaggeration, the Gold Rush was certainly the impetus behind the creation of one of the most interesting, and at times the strangest, states in the Union. California undoubtedly has bizarre politics. In a year's time, it has re-elected Gray Davis, only to recall him and replace him with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. It has offered a haven for homosexual marriage on the steps of San Francisco's city hall. It is still attempting to offer drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants. While some look at California with admiration, others view the state with revulsion and are relieved that they have avoided or escaped the borders of the 'Left Coast.' In The California Republic: Instiutions, Statesmanship, and Policies, Brian P. Janiskee of CSU-San Bernardino and Ken Masugi of the Claremont Institute explore how California has become what it is. Specifically, the aim of the book is to 'explore the evolution of Progressivism in California and its contemporary policy consequences.' The book also explores how 'the role of government became transformed-from the earlier one of protecting equal rights¿to one guaranteeing minimum levels of security and comforts for all,' as a result of Progressivism. The California Republic is a collection of essays written mostly by university professors and historians, but it also includes journalists and notables such as Dan Walters, Ward Connerly, and Victor Davis Hanson. The book is arranged topically and is in relatively chronological order. It begins with the founding of the state and its first constitutional convention in 1849, and ends with modern policy issues such as affirmative action, gun rights, and the 'water problem.' But the continuous theme throughout the book is Progressivism - its birth and the effects that are still felt today in California. The Progressivism discussed in this book is not the radical liberalism the term now denotes; in fact, the first Progressives were radical Republicans. California Progressivism would be impossible to understand without a discussion of Hiram Johnson, 'the father of the modern state of California,' who was elected governor in 1910 and remained a California statesman until 1945. Johnson became a household name during the recall election since he was responsible for instituting the recall process in California, along with the initiative and referendum, which have become increasingly popular ways for the people to bypass the inept state legislature. While Johnson and other Progressives supported 'dramatically increased government power,' they also believed in individualism. They essentially mixed the individualism of Thomas Jefferson and the statism of Alexander Hamilton to create Progressivism. According to contributor Scot Zentner, 'Johnson¿was neither a classical liberal nor an abject socialist, but one who thought of himself as holding on to some kind of individualism, albeit an individualism regulated by the tender and caring state.' Although Johnson supported a strong centralized government, he became dissatisfied with FDR's New Deal because it had become too regimented. The Progressives wanted a government with a greater moral and maternal responsibility, one that would be 'personified as a feeling and compassionate being.' From Johnson's viewpoint, the state 'now would provide 'care and tenderness' to those harmed by society or otherwise unable to find success within it.' Even though Johnson did not approve of FDR's cold administrative state, his ideology was the beginning of California's current mindset. According to Zentner, '[In] Johnson's theory of government, the primary task of the state was, in fact, to provide, through its expanded regulatory and redistributive powers, a much fuller reconciliation of private and public interests than had been thought pWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.