California has this week scored the lowest Standard & Poor’s credit rating of any state in the country. Facing a $42 billion budget deficit and a legislature in gridlock, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, brought in by radical intervention of the usual democratic processes, has been unable to make a difference. Rumor is he plans to go back to making movies when this governor gig is up.

The Great Man having failed, San Francisco’s Bay Area Council is calling for a Constitutional Convention.

“We believe California’s system of government is fundamentally broken,” they write in a press release. “Our prisons overflow, our water system teeters on collapse, our once proud schools are criminally poor, our financing system is bankrupt, our democracy produces ideologically-extreme legislators that can pass neither budget nor reforms, and we have no recourse in the system to right these wrongs.”

This is a sign of health in the republic and in our most important initiative state. As many state governors and even local mayors have simply dropped the reins of responsibility in recent days and turned to the feds for a bailout, the most respectable business leaders in California are taking the initiative.

"Government is failing in a profound way," Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council, told The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. "It's reached the stage where I don't see it healing itself through a new leader, a temporary solution, good will on the part of the participants, an improved economy. Those are all things that are factors, but the situation we are in has to be seen for what it is, which is essentially government falling apart."

Falling apart: One commentator remarked, “As California goes, so goes America.”

The Bay Area Council is holding a summit to discuss a California Constitutional Convention on Feb. 24, 2009, at Sacramento. The original California Constitution was adopted in 1849. It was superseded when the current Constitution was ratified in 1879.

Critics warn that once a convention is called, anything can happen and results may be unanticipated.

Opening up the Constitution is fraught with dangers, writes Joel Fox, editor of Fox and Hounds, a newsletter on California business and politics. California’s only effort to overhaul the Constitution in a convention occurred in 1879. Delegates from the Workingman’s Party and the Grangers captured that convention. They were able to produce a document that put into the Constitution their agenda, which included regulation of the railroads, new tax policies and restrictions on Chinese from owning property or holding certain jobs.

In California we could be seeing the new American paradigm. The Obama bailout, which takes its initiative from government policies of the 1930s, is today all the rage but could well suggest a kind of mass hysteria evoked by a stressed-out populace seeking a new political god king. Much as Arnold — movie strongman — suddenly materialized in the political arena at a psychologically stressful and destabilizing time when California hoped for a kind of “strongman” savior effect — like a call for Spiderman — to save them from a misery which seemed beyond the help of human intervention. Indeed, Schwarzenegger played such a “superman” role — “The Last Action Hero” — in 1993.

In awakening this event the Bay Area Council brings the voice of clarity and strength out of chaos and political squalor that has persisted through several administrations. This is what Jefferson intended. Likewise, we see in Congress today beginning to rise to prominence the Blue Dog Gang in the House and a similar centrist group in the Senate, a true “post-partisan” group, forming in opposition to the bailout, which could well take the initiative in days ahead.

And rising as well and beginning to find cohesion, the Republican Insurgent governors who opposed the bailout from the beginning — Mark Sanford (S.C.), Rick Perry (Texas), Bobby Jindal (La.), Haley Barbour (Miss.) and Sarah Palin (Alaska) — gaining ground in opposition to the Obama Republicans who support the standing bailout bill.

“Where we think this proposal fails is that the deficit in the current fiscal year already stands at close to $1 trillion, by far the highest in our nation's history,” says Scott English, Sanford’s chief of staff. “This proposal would ensure deficits of that proportion for years to come. Also, before this year, the outstanding liability of the federal government was $52 trillion between the national debt, Social Security and Medicare. This represents an invisible mortgage of $455,000 for every household in America and, sadly, a further strain on future generations.”

If Obama, like Schwarzenegger, proves to be just another celebrity god that fails — this one brought to us overnight via Oprah — then the nationalization approach of the Roosevelt era fails with him and fails once and for all. And these fledgling groups formed in opposition will ascend — the new Quaternity of Sanford, Perry, Jindal and Palin in particular. And this morning it doesn’t look too good for Obama’s bailout.

Visit Mr. Quigley's website at