Cultural Revolutions

Dominating Headlines

The recall election in California has dominated the headlines of late, thanks, in part, to Governor Hiram Johnson, the lion of the Western Progressives.  The irony is that today’s alleged “progressives”—in thrall to the special interests (i.e., the public-employee unions)—are horrified by what their ancestors have wrought.

The Union Pacific Railroad was a great octopus that gripped the legislatures of a dozen states by their necks.  Farmers were being driven off the land, while the solons in Sacramento loosed the railroads on previously “public” properties.  Corporate power feeding at the public trough provoked a mighty rebellion that, in California, reached its climax with the election of the Progressive Republican Hiram Johnson as governor.  We must “arm the people” to “protect themselves hereafter,” said Johnson in his inaugural address.  The organs of direct democracy—the initiative, the referendum, and the recall—were written into the state constitution.  If the government displeased the people, they were free to tear it down.  A California tradition was born.

Today, another sort of many-tentacled creature has the Golden State in a death grip: The public-employee unions, with their fat pension funds and exorbitant salaries, are draining the state dry, and the tax-happy Democrats, along with various...

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