California is essentially ungovernable, the current political system needs to adopt European-style reforms and the needs of college students are largely ignored because young people don’t vote.
Those were just a few of the points made by Sacramento Bee political columnist Dan Walters on Friday at the fifth annual Roger Tatarian Symposium, and at a studio forum sponsored by the mass communication and journalism department later that day.
Calling Californiaâ€™s political system â€œbroken,â€ Walters said it was totally inept at responding effectively to todayâ€™s challenges.
Three major changes have occurred in California over the last 30 years to cause the current political gridlock and lack of consensus among the populace, Walters said.
For one, the stateâ€™s economy has changed from one that was based on natural resources and manufacturing to a â€œnew economyâ€ of trade, services, technology and communications.
He also said the largest industry in California is now health care, accounting for 10 percent of the work force.
The other two major changes Walters pointed out were the large population growth fueled by immigration, and the vast cultural change that has been wrought as a result.
But he noted that the increased ethnic and cultural diversity in California has yet to translate to the voting booth.
Whites make up only about 45 percent of the stateâ€™s population but over 70 percent of the electorate, Walters said. In contrast, Latinos and Asians, the two fastest growing segments of the population, continue to lag far behind in voter representation.
Regarding government reform, Walters suggested adopting a parliamentary system like that of Canada. Under this system, he argued the legislature and governor would have to be more accountable for their actions.
Although pessimistic about the prospect for major reforms, Walters said that California was vastly different from anywhere else in the world and therefore, â€œstarting over from scratchâ€ was justified.
Linking a popular adage to California, Walters said, â€œThere ain’t no place like this place.â€