"Six Californias" plan
2013: California’s Year of Secession
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California is the largest state by population in the United States. Alaska has the most land, but very few people. Despite the population advantage (fifty-three House Reps: the largest delegation in Washington), California’s governing class insists on imposing ruinous policies taxing the makers and making more takers. Because of such short-sighted political moves, residents are streaming out of the state, following businesses and jobs to business-friendly states like Arizona, Nevada, and even Oregon. Because of the ongoing California exodus, Texas may overtake California as the most populous state within a decade.
For the first time since California’s inception from the free-state/slave-state Compromise of 1850, California received no new house seats following the decennial census. Thirty-eight million people live in California. Despite the growing number of Californians leaving the state for better retirement plans or economic opportunities, population growth may resurge should amnesty pass in the Washington D.C. Yet while state lawmakers consider population growth through immigration, they should pay attention to California’s local groups and individual cities fed up with Sacramento’s tax-and-spend statism. In 2013 alone, two proposals, one from rural counties, another from a businessman, have floated internal secession: the notion of breaking up California into different states.
In the 1850’s, Californians supported a separated Northern and Southern California. Majorities in the state legislature and the governor at the time approved the measure, and they even engaged a Washington lobbyist for the break-up. Unfortunately, the Civil War broke out and thus tabled any early attempts to split up the Golden State.
Secession was a sore subject in the 1860’s, enough to erupt into a four-year civil war. Northern hegemony triumphed, slavery was abolished, and the primacy of the United States Constitution as a federal charter remained intact. During the Civil War, the mountain regions of Virginia had refused to secede from the Union, and thus seceded from Confederate Virginia to become West Virginia today.
West Virginia was the last state formed from secession from a prior state, so far, but now discussion for breaking up California have recently returned.
In 2011, Riverside County supervisor Jeff Stone (a Republican) offered another plan, South California, which would include Mono County all the way down through San Bernardino and Orange Counties, with Los Angeles conspicuously left out. Not hiding his disdain for the liberal politics of the LA Basin, Stone offered that the counties South and East of the LA metro area should have the opportunity to elect their own federal representatives as well as sponsor statewide governments more akin to their values.
And now 2013, which one may dub “The California Year of Secession”.
Northeastern California counties, including Modoc and Siskiyou Counties, openly discussed their frustration with the heavily-represented urban districts crowding out their interests in Sacramento. Gun control and environmental protections do not sell well in California’s rural sections, either. As early as 1941, local activists had pitched the state of Jefferson (including a state flag with two X’s) to stake their claims to self-determination. September of 2013, a 4-1 and 4-0 Board of Supervisor majorities voted to seceded from the California.
Just this week, uber-libertarian businessman Tim Draper of Silicon Valley offered a “Six Californias” plan, complete with long-term timetables for a voter-approved initiative and statewide commissions to ease the transition of California from state to states. Draper divided Northern California into the states of Jefferson and North California, then divided the Bay area into its own enclave “Silicon Valley.” Perhaps he hopes that rebranding can help rebound the region, which suffers from the liberal labeling endemic and inevitable to California businesses.
Central California would include the Central Valley all the way to the Nevada border. West California would section off Los Angeles all the way to San Luis Obispo, mostly a coastal county, including Santa Barbara and Ventura. The remaining counties would comprise South California, nearly identical with Jeff Stone’s suggestion in 2011.
Can another secession movement succeed in California? Not a chance, certainly.
But the grievances motivating a divided California for concerned, and especially conservative, interests cannot be ignored. A liberal, urban political class based in Los Angeles and San Francisco is making most of the decisions in Sacramento (Assembly Speaker John Perez of East Los Angeles and State Senate President Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento), which have edged out rising concerns about water rights in the Central Valley, as well as rural interests in Northern California, and have ignored the socially conservative leanings of Central, North, and specific counties in Southern California (San Diego and Orange County). The same pandering to academic wagging heads and public sector union monstrosities have also set off middle class wage earners and small businesses, both of which are fed up with paying all the taxes yet seeing less of a return in terms of public services from the state.
California contains such diverse and divergent interests. These competing forces cannot sustain any long-term economic or cultural vitality as long as the widening disparity between the local and political interests persists without remedy. Secession has no chance of success, but frustrated Californians are fed up with Sacramento’s top-down micromanaging, and their concerns should be heeded.