California even now—when the supposed legatees of Progressivism denounce the idea of a gubernatorial recall—remains the land of golden promise, the Eureka! state. But its citizens, its leaders, its students, its observers sorely need a sober rendering of its history and its institutions. Brian P. Janiskee and Ken Masugi have delivered. If you care at all about the direction of this loveliest of states, then this book is critical to your understanding of a perplexing and wonderful land."
"The most interesting book on California politics in decades, and the only volume that weaves together the state's constitutional origins and development with discerning accounts of its major political figures and contemporary policy issues."
Professor of Government
Director, Salvatori Center
Claremont McKenna College
"Beginning with insightful examinations of the state's constitutions and ending with thought pieces on current issues, the volume covers most of the state's major periods, historical figures, and policy debates...The three chapters on local government teach new lessons about special districts, local finances, and the goals of the anti-tax movement...The wide-ranging California Republic will provide a buffet for thought."
—Perspectives on Political Science
- From Townhall.com:
In The California Republic: Institutions, 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.
In John Marini's essay "Western Justice," he explores the Hollywood Western. Westerns arrived on the scene in response to "the intellectual triumph of Progressivism." Instead of approaching history from the perspective of right and wrong, these new historians talked about "socially acceptable behavior." According to Marini, "The Western movie was intended to fill a gap created by the abandonment of the heroic understanding of the past."
While "Progressivism looked to a glorious future...the implicit premise of the Western was that our fathers were better than we are." Hollywood filmmakers such as John Ford and Sam Pekinpah could approach topics such as law, justice, and heroes that had been abandoned by the "professionals" in academia and the culture. Ironically, the only place where one could find human greatness celebrated, virtue extolled, and vice condemned was in a fictional setting.
One need not be from California to appreciate The California Republic, especially since the effects of Progressivism have been felt far beyond the borders of the state. This book is for anyone who appreciates history, politics, and public policy. The essays in this book may be read from cover to cover or independently. They are appropriate for personal enrichment, but are also sophisticated enough for the classroom.
- From CaliforniaRepublic.org:
A Rich and Rewarding Roadmap
by Carol Platt Liebau, 4/9/04
With the release of The California Republic—edited by Brian P. Janiskee, assistant professor of political science at Cal State-San Bernadino and Ken Masugi, director of the Center for Local Government at the Claremont Institute—those seeking to understand California's politics, its culture, and its history have found an indispensable source.
Made up of a wide-ranging collection of essays that originated in a scholarly conference hosted by the Claremont Institute, California Republic is complemented by additional contributions. The volume is divided into five parts: "California in a Federal System;" "Institutions;" "Local Government;" "Statesmanship;" and "Policies and Perspectives." But running throughout is an overarching theme: The significance and impact of the rise of the Progressive movement on California, past and present.
Unlike many such compendia, California Republic's editors approach their work from an unabashedly political position: That of full-throated opposition to Progressivism in California. Through the selection of articles, they suggest that this bipartisan movement has undermined the concepts of limited government and constitutionalism adopted first by America's founders, and then by California's. As a result, Janiskee and Masugi contend, the role of California's government has evolved—and not for the better—from an initial commitment to realizing the "equality" principle through the protection of equal rights (albeit with ensuing inequality of results), to a commitment to "guaranteeing minimum levels of security and comforts for all."
The issues of how this transformation occurred, the impact of the change, and the context through which Progressive themes still resonate in the state today occupy the bulk of the book. Particularly compelling is Claremont Institute president Brian Kennedy's examination of the governorship of Gray Davis—a period that he asserts marked the moment in state political history when constitutional government in California became virtually impossible. Kennedy argues that Davis' approach to governing—consisting of little more than an essentially non-ideological devotion to the interests of the state apparatus and public employees—and the deeply disturbing political consequences, are the legacy of the Progressive philosophy bequeathed to California by influential Governor Hiram Johnson.
Other essays are likewise intriguing and valuable, if not as obviously related to the stated theme of the collection. They include a piece by Ralph Rossum, a constitutional scholar, discussing the role of the Seventeenth Amendment, which provided for the direct election of senators, in undermining federalist principles and rendering state interests less important. There are likewise valuable analyses of the careers and significance of two Californian presidents, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Classicist, historian and writer Victor Davis Hanson discusses the role of the farmer as the "last check on our innate democratic excesses" in Ancient Greece and California, and ponders the implications of the California farmer's slow demise.
Even with twenty-two essays—well-argued and carefully presented—by some of California's (and the nation's) most prominent thinkers, California Republic does not present itself as a balanced or even comprehensive account of California history, culture, policies and politics, nor could it. It does not purport to be a textbook. Rather, it is a guidebook—a rich roadmap to a fuller, deeper understanding of the nation's largest, most populous, and arguably most important state. And it is a political treatise—arguing, sometimes subtly and sometimes not, for the preeminence of natural law and the limited government that follows ineluctably therefrom.
And it is certainly a necessity—both for serious students of California and for general interest readers seeking a deeper understanding of the Golden State and political theory alike.