California Public Policy and Citizen Participation/Chapter One

A Unique Early History

California was originally settled by a First Nation which in its various tribes is called the Chumash. When the Spanish conquistadors entered the continent, the land became part of the Spanish empire. Father Juniper Serra pioneered a string of missions up the coast and the Catholic church was a major player inculcating the Chumash with Christianity.

Subsequently, war broke out in Texas and swiftly engulfed the continent. A group of rebel white American settlers declared the Bear Flag Republic and seceded from Mexico, barely two weeks before the US Navy arrived at Monterey and declared US martial law. US troops marched into Mexico City and installed Santa Anna from whom the US exacted the Treaty of Guadalupe. Cash was paid for acquisition of California.

The U.S. Congress subsequently took California into the USA as a state. As a result, California has two US Senators and a House of Representatives delegation of 53, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The Gold Rush and Immigrant Scares

The California Gold Rush was a major influence, drawing Americans from the East and many Asians from the West. This led to a series of anti-Chinese scare which by all estimates are not a legacy of which to be proud.


This section is under construction. Please feel free to contribute.

Jumping to Modern Times

In the 2002 gubernatorial campaign, Democratic incumbent Gray Davis defeated Republican challenger Bill Simon.

On October 7, 2003, Davis was successfully recalled, with 55.4% of the voters supporting the recall (see results of the 2003 California recall). With a plurality of 48.6% of the vote, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was chosen as the new governor. Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante received 31.5% of the vote, and Republican State Senator Tom McClintock received 13.5% of the vote.

Schwarzenegger began his shortened term with a soaring approval rating and soon after began implementing a conservative agenda. This initially resulted in sparring with the heavily Democratic Assembly and Senate over the state budget, battles which provided his infamous "girly men" comment but also began taking their toll on his approval rating. Schwarzenegger then embarked on a campaign to enact several ballot propositions in a 2005 Special Election touted as reforming California's budget system, redistricting powers, and union political fundraising. The union-led campaign spearheaded by the California Nurses Association contributed heavily to the defeat of every proposition in the Special Election. Since this conspicuous failure, Schwarzenegger has made a turn back to the left, criticizing the Bush Administration at many junctures, reviving his environmental agenda, and compromising with the legislature on the traditionally Democratic issue of education spending. His approval rating has also been revived, and he was re-elected in 2006. However continued paralysis in state government and the inability of the Legislature and Governor to work out the fundamental funding questions has resulted in voter disapproval of both the legislators and the Governor whose approval rating is among the lowest ever recorded pending the election of a successor in November, 2010.