By Robert Laurie
Initially, there were rumors that proponents of divvying up California were hoping to create two states: North and South California. Eventually, that morphed into a plan for three states: California, Northern California, and Southern California. Regardless of the merits, the whole thing felt like a bit of a pipe dream. Like putting Ron Paul or Bernie Sanders in the White House, it felt like such a crazy long shot that most people didn’t take it all that seriously. …Until now.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the three-state plan had enough valid signatures to land a slot on the November ballot. So, barring some sort of last minute shakeup, voters who head to the polls will get the chance to shatter the left coast monolith.
An initiative that would direct the governor to seek Congressional approval to divide California into three states has enough valid signatures to be eligible for the Nov. 6 ballot, the Secretary of State’s office said Tuesday.
If the initiative is not withdrawn, it will be qualified for the ballot on June 28.
Depending who you ask, the plan would probably lead to one of two political outcomes – both of which would have major national ramifications.
A: It could shatter the Democrats’ hold on California politics, creating one solidly blue state, one red state, and one that could potentially go either way. California (which would include Los Angeles) would undoubtedly stay in the Democrats’ pocket. The state to its east would be red, and the north would become a battleground.
B: It could create one red state and two solidly blue states, because Northern California’s GOP vote would be swamped by San Francisco.
Obviously, I’m painting with broad strokes and the House of Representatives would be a mixed bag, but honestly I think “B” is probably the more likely future.
Party breakdowns aside, it would absolutely do one thing. California is so huge that, currently, political decision-making is often dominated by people and issues that are far removed from regions they will affect. The three states would unarguably make California’s political atmosphere more “local” – and proponents say that’s the real reason to do it.
The initiative is backed by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Timothy Draper. A spokesperson for pro-measure Citizens for Cal 3 hailed the advancement of the proposal Tuesday night.
“The California state government isn’t too big to fail, because it is already failing its citizens in so many crucial ways,” Citizens for Cal 3 spokeswoman Peggy Grande said in a statement. “The reality is that for an overmatched, overstretched and overwrought state-government structure, it is too big to succeed. Californians deserve a better future.”
Backers say that splitting California would lead to better representation from state lawmakers, and what they say would be better results on issues like education, infrastructure and taxes.
While all of this is an interesting exercise in “what if,” the effort still faces a long, difficult, journey. You can bet that California’s ruling class – which likes things just the way they are – will do everything it can to put the kaibosh on any alterations. Even if the measure passes within the state, it would then have to be approved by Congress. Given the notoriously change-averse nature of most Senators and Representatives, you can bet the plan would face stiff resistance in D.C.
All of that said, we are at least looking at the possibility of adding two new stars to old glory, and that’s nothing if not an interesting prospect. It’s certainly something we’re going to keep an eye on.