California is hardly the only place where voters, through initiative and referendum, make important decisions about government. As the state struggles with persistent budgetary and political problems, the world has been watching, with a combination of wonder and horror. What do direct democrats around the world think as they look at California? What might California learn from the world about its direct democratic system? And what might the rest of the world learn from us?
At this New America event moderated by Joe Mathews, California's most successful and experienced political strategists and one of the world's foremost experts on initiative and referendum came together to discuss how California's initiative process fits into the world. Gale Kaufman of Kaufman Campaign Consultants, a veteran of some of the state's most important initiative campaigns who was once described by activist-actor Warren Beatty as "silver-tongued," assessed the past, present and future of California's initiative process. While Bruno Kaufmann, president of the Initiative & Referendum Europe and co-organizer of a major global forum on direct democracy this summer in San Francisco, talked about California's role as inspiration - and albatross -- for a global expansion of direct democracy that has reached more than 100 countries.