Three Californias may be coming soon
Tim Draper is a rich man, but he understands he doesn't know it all. His first attempt to divide California into six states made little sense. So he went out and got some people who are experts on the subject. The result, Cal 3, is a political masterpiece. This could work.
When California was admitted to the Union in 1850, it had only 92,000 people, most of them scrambling for gold in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. That's why California's county lines are so screwy. Los Angeles County now has 10,000,000 people. Alpine County has 1,000.
Cal 3 divides the state along lines that make geographic, cultural, and political sense. The population is divided roughly into thirds. North and South are still very large states, and what's left of California would be a medium-size state.
In order for this to work, it will need to get a majority not just of the total vote. Majorities will be needed in all three prospective states. Looking at this map makes me think that could happen, for one important reason: partisan politics.
The Democrats in Washington, D.C. are going to love this idea. Now California has two Democratic senators. Under Cal 3, it will have four Democratic senators from ultra-blue North California and California. The two senators from South California will be up for grabs. Democrats could pick off one of them or even two. The Democrats will not lose Senate seats, but they might gain one or two. For a D, what's not to like? Plus somebody gets to fill these new Senate seats. People's eyes will light up.
If the Democrats win control of both House and Senate this year, they would have an incentive to support Cal 3. The backing of President Trump can be negotiated. He's always open to a deal, as long as there's something in it for him.
The congressional grant of statehood has always been a purely political question. Everything depends on which party is in power in Washington, and whose ox is being gored. West Virginia's separation from Virginia in 1863 was political, because of the Civil War. Nevada was admitted on October 31, 1864, a week before the presidential election. The Republicans wanted to give Lincoln a three-electoral vote cushion. Nevada filled the bill, even though it had less than 7,000 people in the 1860 census. Alaska and Hawaii came into the Union in 1959 as a result of a political deal between Republicans and Democrats. Solidly Democratic Alaska was offset by reliably Republican Hawaii. How times change.
Every congressional candidate in California will be asked if he'll support Cal 3 in Congress, if the voters want it. How can they say no? Likewise with candidates for the state legislature and governor. Everyone will want to abide by the wishes of a majority of new California, North California, and South California.
Though I am a spiritual Alaskan, I was born, raised, educated, married, and retired in northern California. Since I was a kid in the 1950s, everybody has been complaining about L.A. In the Bay Area, people look down on Angelenos, and they steal our water. I'm sure the Bay Area isn't all that popular down south, either.
When differences are irreconcilable, it's time to break up.
Fritz Pettyjohn is retired from the Alaska state Senate. He was appointed by Alaska Senate president Pete Kelly to represent the Senate at the 2017 Phoenix Convention of States. He blogs at ReaganProject.com.