Some Californians want to secede from the union. I have two reactions:
They are idiots because they want to leave merely because they — a majority being Democrats in the quintessential “Left Coast” state — did not get their way in the last presidential election. This is more than a little wrong-headed. Many American voters never get their way. (I’m one. I never have voted for a winning presidential candidate.) It’s a representative republic, this our union of states, so we have to expect not always to get our way. The secessionist Californians seem to not understand the basics of the system. The spoiled asshat brats.
On the other hand, I think the United States is stuck. A secessionist movement might pry open the trap.
Republicans this last time around decided to “unstick it” by sticking it to the Democrats . . . with the candidate Democrats most hated. Republicans chose Trump because, well, the Democrats had already chosen Hillary, who was the candidate Republicans most hated. One good hate deserves another! Or so the messed-up rationale runs. But, this being the case, or not, I doubt Trump will unstick the country from its prodigal ways of too much spending, too much debt, too high taxes, too much regulation, and too intrusive and hubristic a foreign policy. He will almost certainly exacerbate some of these. His preference for nationalism over federalism bodes ill.
So, another way to unstick the country would be to break it up. And, well, to Californians: good riddance!
But there’s a hitch. Californians are Americans, and many would not want to leave.
And, more importantly, there are parts of California that want to leave . . . California. Before any secession from the federation should be contemplated, the secession of the northern counties to form a new state, Jefferson, should be on the table. I am pretty sure the would-be Jeffersonians want to stay part of the United States.
Paul Jacob, today, argues that the formation of the proposed new state, Jefferson, should be up to those northern counties that have already voted to secede, on a county-by-county basis.
Mr. Jacob also notes that there had been a “split up California” measure on the ballot a few years ago. And I certainly remember it, because I had written on the subject at the time. (Though I cannot find where I wrote about it. Hmmm.) The main point is that California is too big, and has too many people per politician . . . I mean, per representative. The state has the highest constituent/representative (c/r) ratio in the country. By far.
Making of a new state out of the far north California counties would give the new state probably the lowest c/r ratio. But it would have other effects as well.
I note that when the split-into-six measure was on the ballot, Huffington Post whined the most about the wealth/poverty ratios. Of course, the poorest segment, the north, is precisely the one that wants to leave the most. This tells you a lot about the imagination and political biases of the folks at HuffPo. And how divergent they are from actual poor people in the real rural world. Jeffersonians apparently want a state without a strong city.
But take a look at the HuffPo map. Not for the wealth/poverty ratios, but just for the shape of the states then proposed. The great thing about the proposal was that it reflected actual regions, how people live and how they think about where they live. This is regional affinity, and it is something city-folk today tend to dismiss, as their preferred policies run roughshod over rural American preferences.
Perhaps more importantly, the proposal separated the three major cities: San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, each major city getting its own region. That makes sense. Each city is its own economic and cultural powerhouse. Each city has a region that backs it up. While separating regions fits with regional affinity, uniting a city with its natural region is also a good idea.
There are obvious problems with the six-state regional split, and these problems may have been part of the reason the proposal failed at the ballot box. First, six is just too many. Probably two too many, if not three. Second, too much weight was given to Sacramento — it was to become the capital, I guess, of “North California,” but it would dominate that new state in an unhealthy way. Third, the union of the Sierra Nevada and central valley regions seem odd, from either a regional affinity basis or a city/city-region basis.
Arguably, the Sierra Nevada (far east) counties might wish to break off to join Nevada (which is a state with too little private property, too much federal land), or join the new “South California,” or join the eastern counties of “North California” to unite with the new Jefferson State. This should all be decided in a complicated series of plebiscites, with options to choose the new alliances.
As is probably obvious by now, I’m no expert on California culture or political geography. But when I look at the rural regions, I expect to attach a major city to them. The proposed Jefferson does not have a major city. And there is no way that today’s political behemoth of Sacramento would join the norther secessionists. But those counties to the east of Sacramento might very much want to join Jefferson, and, if they did, the Sierra Nevada counties should have the option to join the new state, too. They won’t nab a major city, but they might gain important populations with cultural and regional affinities.
So, from the start, Congress should demand plebiscites in the would-be Jefferson counties, and the southern Oregon counties, too, whether they want to form the proposed new state. If yes, then, move to the next step: one by one, the eastern counties should vote to join Jefferson or not. See how far down the east of California Jefferson would stretch. Each of those counties should also have the option of joining Nevada or some other city region state not allied with San Francisco.
The Central Valley region, I repeat, puzzles me. It seems like it should belong to either the San Francisco or Los Angeles city regions, and therefore part of their respective states.
Separating “North California” from “Silicon Valley” seems nuts to me. But separating “West California” from both the San Francisco and San Diego city regions makes perfect sense. So, it seems to me, after determining the size and shape of Jefferson, then we would need to determine the shapes of South California and West California. The mostly likely states to emerge would be Jefferson, North California, West California, and South California, with the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada regions divvied up among the four.
In my previous writings on this, I think I suggested just three states, Jefferson, North California, and South California. But that lumped in LA with San Diego. That seems unfortunate. But I remember drawing the line east and west for South California pretty easily, geometrically by county borders, that way. That would be inhumanly arbitrary, of course.
In any case, after splitting up the state into three or four pieces — and perhaps allowing some counties to merge with adjacent states) — then each state could be asked about secession. Would West and North California secede? Perhaps. I doubt it. It seems so stupid, and so difficult.
Unless, of course, Americans take the whole thing as a cue: split up the union and form several new unions, with the new unions placing the federal government under receivership.
But, somehow, I don’t think anything that drastic could widely and effectively be contemplated until too late.