Let’s Break Up California–Again?? by Steve Harding


Well, he’s at it again. This time it is only three Californias. Tim Draper, the billionaire Bay Area venture capitalist, announced that his initiative to break California into three separate states had gotten more than 600,000 signatures from registered voters across all  58 counties, surpassing the 365,880 signatures required to get his initiative on the ballot. Draper states:

“This is an unprecedented show of support on behalf of every corner of California to create three state governments that emphasize representation, responsiveness, reliability and regional identity”

Recently Andrea Diaz of CNN asked, “How could this help California?”  She states in her April 13, 2018, article–“According to the proposal, first announced in November, this will solve California’s most pressing issues, including the state’s failing school systems, high taxes, deteriorating infrastructure and strained government.”

Her essay goes on to say: “Draper explained that partitioning California into three states would empower regional communities to make better and more sensible decisions for their citizens. To create three states from a standing start, you’ll get all the benefits of knowing all the things that worked in the past, and all the things that could work in the future and you get to eliminate all the baggage you got in the state, Draper said in a news conference Thursday night at Draper University.  When you get together and you start something fresh, you have a new way to look at it and create better things.”

I’m not going to attempt to pass judgement as to the merits of such vague and non- substantive comments. Like Mr. Draper’s failed Six State Initiative, there just isn’t enough information to assess the validity of the proponents assertions one way or another.  On the surface, the last sojourn down this path seemed to make absolutely no fiscal sense for at least three of the six proposed subdivisions. There was no quantitative depth to the argument. Lacking analytics, both efforts give every impression of guising the core motivations behind such a process. The variables are almost endless let alone the complexities associated with forming a new state, in this case three, under the conscripts of the Congress of the United States. By comparison, sixty years of political bickering led to the splitting off of West Virginia from the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1863.

The formation mechanics can be developed to a mind numbing and costly level of detail. As a suggestion, this effort should similarly follow the attachment/detachment procedures as required for the municipal reorganization process currently contained in California statutes. This recent proposal may be analogous to the failed secession effort of the San Fernando Valley from the City of Los Angeles whereby one sub-division would fiscally thrive at the expense of the other. If nothing else, each proposed entity needs to remain fiscally whole. Without the supporting data, Californians would not know if their proposed state would be a fiscal winner or loser. Some depth of analysis has to be in-order for voters to even attempt to make an informed decision.

However difficult, the core causations and motivations of this chain of secession efforts are not so much fiscal as they appear to be cultural, economic, and political. The proposals apparent financial improbability combined with the demands of the reallocation of California’s assets conjurs an attitude more in line with “Brexit” than developing more effective methods of governance. Maybe it is more about political identity and the preservation of of the upper rungs of the existing capitalist caste system? These constructs should be the center of our attention. I would suggest that a deeper understanding of who we are as Californians and Americans is foundational in such an analysis. Colin Woodward’s texts, American Nations–A History of The Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, and American Character–A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good are just two of many places to start. His own mapping depicts a California divided into three “Nations” of what he characterizes as the Left Coast, El Norte, and the Far West. In some respects they geographically emulate the boundaries proposed by Draper.  They are distinctively different in their cultures yet bound together by the arbitrary perimeters of the State or even the nation as a whole.  One just needs to revisit Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, Viscount de Tocqueville’s 1835 compendium American Democracy to gain a better knowledge of what may be described as an American confederation of regions and people.



As such, the bigger question still remains, why? A few years back, I wrote the following essay on the Six State Initiative.  I’ve certainly not spent enough time validating, or invalidating, my previous thoughts. Yet in general terms, I’m thinking that what I scribbled then is still food for thought, although I would probably add the causations and effects of ethnocentrism to the conversation.  All in all, maybe a restructuring of our existing state and local governmental systems is the more appropriate way to go. At the very least, we certainly owe it to ourselves to at least revisit the relationship between government and the governed.

Making Civic Sense of California–Six or Otherwise

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