Will Six Californias Be Better Than One?

Many feel unrepresented by the state legislature.


SACRAMENTO — When most people think of secession, they think of the type of disturbing events unfolding in the Ukraine. But efforts to break up political boundaries could be coming to California, albeit in a laid-back and peaceful manner, as Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper circulates an initiative to chop up the state into pieces.

Efforts to rearrange political lines seem almost as old as the hills and rivers that form natural boundaries. Nations and states have different cultures, economies and politics, of course. Supporters argue that California – where voters in the dominant Bay Area and Los Angeles have far different priorities than Californians in other areas – ought to be broken into six states so everyone can pursue their dreams. (It's not as if San Diegans couldn't still spend the weekend in Napa.)

No U.S. state has been divided since the Civil War. But this idea sounds less antiquated after considering that just one of California's 58 counties (San Bernardino) is larger than nine U.S. states and four of them combined. Supporters have gotten the go-ahead from the secretary of state to begin collecting signatures, so this idea could spark a thought experiment.

Even small U.S. states have differences, but California's are arguably so extreme that it's hard to imagine any way to reconcile them. There are efforts in the rural far north to join with some Oregon counties and become the state of Jefferson. They already have a flag. Folks there say California's land-use restrictions are leaving them in penury.

That movement lacks political clout, but what happens if state voters say yes to a divorce? It's hard to imagine they would do so given that urban residents can easily out-vote disgruntled folks in the hinterlands. It seems likely that the legislature would fight this and unlikely that Congress would accept a break up. But campaigns – provided they are serious, and that's far from clear in this case – can lead to reforms that address simmering frustrations.

The initiative seems to recognize those points: "The legal processes for division of the state will take time. In the interim, we the people desire to empower local governments and lessen the role of Sacramento over every aspect of our lives, to encourage regional cooperation, and to begin the process of new state identification."

A Siskiyou secessionist this writer once interviewed argued that California really needs a different set of regulatory rules for rural residents. Ranchers living miles from the closest neighbor are frustrated by laws drafted to address property owners living in Oakland or Encinitas.

Wannabe reformers have long talked about a California break up, but the proposed number of states and borders have varied wildly. This initiative does a better job than most on the boundaries. For instance, it combines the far-north counties into the state of Jefferson, which is dead on. Another sensible creation is Central California, which combines the agricultural San Joaquin Valley with the central Sierra Nevada region.

It handles the Southern California political divide by placing San Diego, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial counties into South California. The culturally more liberal Los Angeles County joins some of the Central Coast to become West California. The political thinking is sensible, but it's still hard to imagine Southern California without Hollywood. The proposal also creates the state of Silicon Valley with counties in the Bay Area and around Monterey.

The biggest oddity is North California, which cuts from Lake Tahoe to the Pacific and grabs the Sacramento area, Napa, Sonoma and Marin. The latter three counties seem inextricably linked to San Francisco. Then again, this plan is more about having a conversation about tax policy, regulation and local control and less about precise boundaries.

"(V)ast parts of our state are poorly served by a representative government dominated by a large number of elected representatives from a small part of our state," the initiative explains. That's something to talk about now, before these disputes lead to an angry divorce.

NEXT: California Seeks to Invalidate 9th Circuit Win for Conceal-Carry Guns Rights

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    1. They can hold The Drought Games.

        1. Anything that means more Jennifer Lawrence.

      1. Not this weekend. But we could hold a mudslide surfing contest in Glendora this afternoon.

        1. In SJ too most likely.

  1. The smaller the population base to representative ratio you have, the better off you inherently will be, so the answer is yes.

    Having said that, I’m pretty sure our HoR would work better if we had about 10,000 members like the Constitution called for.

    1. “The smaller the population base to representative ratio you have, the better off you inherently will be.”

      That’s why Hawaii is a libertarian paradise.

      1. Did I say everywhere would become more libertarian or did I say the better off people would inherently be with more direct representation? Because I’d be willing to bet that the citizens of Hawai’i would be a lot better off if it was represented by 60 members of Congress.

        It would definitely make it easier for libertarians, greens, socialists and other third parties to at least get a seat at the table.

        1. But aren’t all those greens and socialists in California the reason why the “conservatives” want to secede in the first place? Or are you claiming that California does not have any greens and socialists posing as Democrats?

          1. I don’t think they’re that far to the left from a purely political standpoint. They may act like it on the campaign trail in certain parts of their massive districts, but that kind of supports my point, doesn’t it? They can openly state their real views to their small district and actually represent the views of those people.

  2. I’ve been assured that any talk of secession in any form is just neo-confederates being racist.

    1. Don’t forget nullification. Damn those racist neo-confederates in Washington and Colorado!

  3. So where is West California gonna steal their water from?

  4. Just what we need – a bunch more Senators from California in Congress – NOT.

    1. Actually, yes. Right now the only senators from CA are lean so far to the left they walk in circles. There are large areas in CA that are more conservative. Secession would allow those areas to elect senators more representative of that area.

      1. “There are large areas in CA that are more conservative. Secession would allow those areas to elect senators more representative of that area.”

        So progress, in your mind, is having more conservatives running things? The Bush Presidency, but on a smaller scale? Yikes.

        1. I’m sure the squishy moderates that pass as conservatives in the state of California will rush to follow the Bush model.

          Although, Bush did win over 40% of Latino vote on “compassionate conservatism”. Which involves a lot of spending.

          Right now, it would be “progress” for sane parts of CA to exit the liberal model of governance that has resulted in Detroit. The Dems have enough vote and public support to raise min wage to 15 dollars tomorrow. And the global warming initiative that forces energy companies to spend money on alternative energy will kick in soon enough.

          The high speed rail project isn’t quite dead yet.

        2. Being from the Central Valley, I would prefer the model of the Calvin Coolidge presidency – eliminating the nanny state and loosening regulations. California was once an industrial powerhouse but is becoming an industrial-grade poorhouse at the hands of the activists in office.

      2. Do you really think that the liberals who run that state now would allow their power to be diluted in Congress?

        If there were to be a breakup, they would be the ones drawing the boundary lines of it – and doing so to maximize their clout.

        I don’t see that playing out any differently than what goes on now in gerrymandering legislative districts within states

        1. This is all addressed in the ballot initiative.

  5. No Californias would be better than 6 or 1. That is if anybody else would take it.

  6. I’m still holding out for the mega-earthquake.

    1. Had a dream
      You and me and the war of the end times
      And I believe
      California succumbed to the fault line
      We heaved relief
      As scores of innocents died

  7. I read the book “Man in the High Castle” and I see no reason why California couldn’t flourish under Imperial Japanese management.

  8. the Two Californias would actually work however I believe the six California verison is a non-starter on purpose in an attempt to quash the two Californias. Since once the six fails nobody will be willing to back a two Californias claiming the people already voted once to not split.

    1. You may be onto something but I don’t think splitting into 2 elite states really had that much of a chance either.
      Frankly I don’t need twice the envy from the flyovers

  9. Finally I will be able to move to New Idria and mine for Quicksilver and still live in Silicon Valley!! What a country!

  10. The proposed lines seem to result in a 4-2 or perhaps 5-1 split in favor of Democrats in the Senate, which I’m gonna guess would be bitterly opposed by Republicans.

    Similarly, splitting off NoCal with Southern Oregon counties to produce a new Republican majority state would be a non-starter for Democrats in the Senate.

  11. I live in California and I’m all for California getting out of the USA and leaving the Tories behind in Kern County. I’m not for splitting up blue California, where we don’t vote for Senators that lead us into pointless wars, into four red states where no one lives and two blue state where the rest of us reside

    1. If no one lives in the “red zones” then it should be irrelevant to you.

    2. But I thought Diane Feinstein was in favor of involvement in Syria and NSA snooping on American citizens. Not to mention their support of the disastrous ACA.

      California is already a dystopia. There’s a whole lot of decay underneath the glitz of Hollywood and tech industry that benefits the 1%.

    3. I am seeing at least three blue states (Silicon Valey, West California and Northern California) based upon the picture and the descriptions in the article of which counties will be in which states.

      Also, only two of the states (Jefferson and Central CA) could be said to have little population. Which four are you talking about?

      1. I think the orange, red, dark blue and green “states” would vote Republican. Why would liberals support dividing up a deep blue state into 3 reliably red, two competitive and one deep blue state? This has been a Republican wet dream for 20 yrs now as are proposals to divide up CA electoral votes.

        I’m for dividing up Texas into a predominately Latino state and one that composes cattle ranchers and oil drillers. See how this works?

        1. Maybe my monitor color is off. Which is the dark blue state you are talking about – Jefferson or Northern California? If you are referring to Jefferson, then yes, it would lean Republican though the coastal counties could cause it to go to the Dems. If you by “dark blue” you mean Northern California then I really disagree. It includes Sacramento county(where I live), Marin, Sonoma, Solano and Yolo county(UC Davis). All Democrat leaning with pockets of Republican support. The population in those counties overwhelm the Republican leaning counties in the east; Placer and El Dorado.

          Plus, West California would be more of a toss-up.

  12. I could get behind this. Decentralization is rarely bad.
    Why not split it into 3 blues and two reds? Or 2b 1r? You keep the senate balance from changing, but potentially use the concepts of federalism to let everyone have more specific representation.
    The only thing it hurts is that Team Blue will no longer get every electoral college vote from CA. I guess that’s enough to kill it.

  13. Probably would make more sense if the ballot measure gave preliminary approval for counties or municipalities to sponsor ballot measures to create new states. That way the specific boundaries need not be dictated beforehand and people can make their own choices. It also doesn’t make sense to leave county boundaries inviolate once we accept the principle of state balkanization.

  14. Also, having lived or worked in three of the proposed states, I’m not sure it makes sense to create a state from Tahoe to Marin. The North Bay identity is reasonably strong and people there all tend to work in and around SF, so they should probably be included in the same state as SF, OAK, and SJ. And Sacramento is a more natural fit with the Modesto-Fresno strip.

    I think the idea was to try to balance out the states populations and geography, but the live-work patterns suggest a different layout.

  15. It seems to me that the real winner of the proposed split is the Silicon valley (maybe parts of bay area), which gets to keep all the revenue from the tech industry and don’t have to worry about costs associated with border patrol. The tech giants don’t really care if their new state pushes minimum wage to 15 dollars and implements single payer, the Chinese make all of their products.

    Then again, the bay area liberals don’t like Google flaunting their wealth, so the new socialist state government may very well drive some of them out of that state.

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  17. I’m all for the libertarian Jefferson state, but I’m not happy about the rest of the states. They’re all so corrupt, constantly banning this or that, regulating to death, etc. Even areas in Jefferson state are corrupt, of course, but the concept hopefully will over rule them. Basically, I just want far far away from boxer, pelosi, Feinstein, Dickenson, etc as I can get.

  18. What California needs is an actual representative Assembly. Of course the state government doesn’t respond to its citizens. There are only 80 critters in their lower house. There were 80 critters in 1880 when there were 850,000 people in California. Districts of 10,000 people ensure that the legislature represents people who the critter actually knows by name – and makes it easier for a challenger if the critter gets corrupted.

    Now those 80 critters represent 37,250,000 people – for the least representative legislature in the world (except India and the US House). 460,000 people per district means that the critter only cares about the big campaign donors that can finance mass campaigns. And good freaking luck to any challenger.

    1. Seriously, however CA could decentralize decision making authority matters much less than actually doing it.

  19. “Jefferson”?
    Somebody misspelled “Guntotingredneckgodfreakslandia”

  20. Pointless, if harmless entertainment. It ought to be beyond obvious to any sentient, thinking person that no process born of existing political structures is going to override those political structures. Those structures have evolved to empower, not to dis-empower.

    No incremental change is going save us from our political and cultural trajectory. Neither I–nor anybody else–has any idea what event(s) will catalyze real change, but it is safe to say that the current direction is a dead end culturally and financially.

    CA–and the US in general–have a piper to pay.

    1. I’ve lost faith in incrementalism for change. Although in reading some Hans-Hoppe I do now consider that any division of the state into smaller powers should be supported, any expansion of a state or state powers should be resisted, and using the state to disempower the state should be supported – even if mostly ineffectual.

  21. I might consider this proposal if they instead split California into two states and give the southern state to Mexico. Might as well do it now rather than way another decade.

  22. We here in NYS have prayed for decades to have NYC separate from UpState. NYS is tough on business and mandate their sales taxes three months in advance and penalties if you have more sales than your estimated. The largest Nation Park in the USA is here. A large agriculture is also here. Wine is big here too but the taxes are brutal. 19% on a gallon of gas @ $4.00 a gallon thats 76 cents on every gallon. California, we understand your troubles.

  23. Hans-Hermanne Hoppe would support the plan.

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