A New Year Means a New California Secession Movement

A rural inland group wants to split from the coastal communities and from Sacramento.


California flag
Roza /

Another movement to split up California is brewing. This one wants to create a state called "New California," essentially by separating the red from the blue.

New California would be made up of the inland and non-metropolitan parts of the state (with the notable exception of San Diego). Classic California would consist of the coastal regions from San Francisco down to Los Angeles. A stubby finger pointing eastward from the Bay Area would lump Sacramento in with the coastal folks.

This new push is happening for pretty much the same reason as every other push for secession in California: People in one part of the state feel ignored, unrepresented, and abandoned by state government. From Sacramento's CBS affiliate:

"Well, it's been ungovernable for a long time. High taxes, education, you name it, and we're rated around 48th or 50th from a business climate and standpoint in California," said founder Robert Paul Preston….

"There's something wrong when you have a rural county such as this one, and you go down to Orange County which is mostly urban, and it has the same set of problems, and it happens because of how the state is being governed and taxed," Preston said.

New California would remain in the union; they just want their own state. It is not unlike the efforts in northern California to break away into a new state named Jefferson.

The complaints are familiar: People who do not live in the Democratic urban strongholds with high populations do not feel as though state-level decisions consider their needs in any way, shape, or form, and they do not feel as though they have any control over policies that affect their lives. California politicians recently approved a $15 minimum wage to please metropolitan labor activists and interests. That could be potentially devastating to low-skill jobs in poor rural parts of the state that cannot absorb the cost increases, but that wasn't a consideration. Indeed, Gov. Jerry Brown acknowledged that "economically, minimum wages may not make sense" as he approved the increase. He did it anyway, to please the more politically powerful constituency.

What's different about the New California push it that it's going to go through the state legislature for permission to break off rather than attempting to win a ballot initiative. I suspect that will hit a wall quickly. The coastal folks may not care that much about the people in the inland parts of the state, but they care quite a lot about the land and natural resources that those people are on top of. When some progressive urban folks got publicity for their movement to secede from the union entirely in a fruitless response to President Donald Trump's election, they wanted to take the whole state with them, conservative rural Trump voters and all.

I support non-urban Californians' right to break off into a state that better represents their preferences. It's just not going to be easy.

Bonus link: Steven Greenhut has written more on the frequent failed efforts to break up California into smaller, more manageable states.

NEXT: Brickbat: Once Again, Never Call the Cops

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  1. They have my full support.

    1. 2nd that.

      Added bonus. Huge fight over the new flag will consume all of the national legislatures time keeping them from passing pointless new laws. God that fight will be awesome in today’s social media atmosphere. One side claiming that the new flag is racist and the other saying it is satanic and every other opinion under the sun.

  2. Libertarianism in theory is decentralization in practice.

  3. I’m all for it, but I don’t like New California. I think they should break into 3 states – Unicorn, Rainbow, and Jefferson.

    1. Apt, considering that this has as much a chance of happening as a unicorn farting rainbows.

  4. Had they excluded Santa Clara, Contra Costa, and Sonoma counties the subject might get some discussion. Including even one of those counties will make the whole thing a non starter. The inclusion of Santa Clara will get them laughed at.

    1. Every state needs a tax base.

  5. I am all for it. I live in the gulag California.

  6. Now, let’s remember: THIS secession movement is “neoConfederate” and wants to put black people in chains. The “progressive” secession movement to take the whole state out of the union, on the other hand, is a noble idea to save the entire planet from Donald Trump. Or something like that.

    1. The existing California government won’t approve the split because it would hand 2 US Senate seats to the Republicans, and some of (existing) California’s Electoral votes.

      The Six Californias project was more likely to succeed since no one could figure out how the Senate seats would shake out (could have still been +2 for the Dems, maybe +4), and it made Silicon Valley its own cool state.

  7. The RNC should incentivize the DNC to support this movement by publicly supporting statehood for D.C. as a corollary. That way the extra senate seats are a wash, while providing more representative governance.

    1. Sounds good to me.

  8. Not a new push, but a quite old one. California has always been of two cultures at odds with each some other. They shift around, but are always there. First there is Northern vs Southern California. Then there is Coastal California and Inland California. One tends to be progressive Democrat and the other cultural conservative Republican. In the current orientation of the plate tectonics, it’s mostly Coastal (blue) versus Inland (red). The dividing line is usually Interstate 5, with sometimes a jog out to the coast to include Orange or San Diego counties.

    This isn’t a secession movement like we saw last year, it’s a “split the state” movement. I’ve seen it since I was a kid. The earliest I know of was the State of Jefferson, during the Great Depression. The modern paleocon movement has glommed onto it, but originally it was because Federal pork dollars weren’t making it north of San Francisco or south of Portand, so they wanted a new state in between so they could get their pork pie too.

    California really is two states, as anyone can see who has ever spent any time to the east of I-5.

    1. You could say the same about many states. Urban blue, rural red. I think all this energy being wasted on culture war and pie-in-the-sky fantasies would be better spent on urging blue areas to fix their mess.

      1. Yeah but California is huge. It should be 2 states, or 3 or 4.

  9. If California broke into two (equal population) states, they still both be in the top but five population wise. Heck, heading it into *three* still had the “new California trio” taking spots 4, 5 & 6.

    And let’s be honest, look at the proposed split: it’s pretty obviously gerrymandered.

    So while I’m not opposed to breaking up California (or Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia and North Carolina. You know, all the states with population > 10 million), this particular division is bad.

    That said, the process could use some work. Assuming the legislature is open to the idea of breaking up (and there’s some indication that Congress would go along with a fair split), they prices could be greatly improved. Something along the lines of individual counties having a preference vote for “leave or stay” (if Kern county doesn’t want to leave California, it shouldn’t be forced to. And once China Lake and Edwards realized that leaving California probably means losing its place on the LA locality pay table, they probably won’t)

    But I’m not opposed to the idea. I just wish that the country has a formal process for breaking up and merging states. Probably also with a defined process for ascending to statehood or being denied to a territory.

    1. To be clear, that was *if* the legislature is open to it and *if* Congress was willing to play ball. Those are preconditions, not delusions.

      And please forgive my many autocorrect typos.

    2. Just let every county in the USA decide which state it wants to be part of. Geographical government is so 19th century.

  10. California should secede.

    California population: 39 million.
    Canada population: 35 million.

    Just sayin’.

  11. Oh no, think of all the uninspected fruit coming in if this happens!

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