Whoever thought the Civil War was our nation’s last call to discuss carving out new states didn’t forsee California’s contemporary stabs at succession. A Republican member of the Riverside County Board of supervisors proposed that 13 California counties nullify their nuptials with the Golden State and and mature as their own emancipated entity. The nation’s 51st state, ‘South California’, would be the solution to the problems the massive mother- state has encountered in seeking an all-encompassing way to govern itself. Despite the failure of over 220 campaigns to split the state since its gold rush era, Supervisor Jeff Stone promises that he will foot the bill, relying on private rather than public funding for the meeting, if his peers will just hear him out.
The political incentive behind the desire to part ways addresses the largest of California’s legislative challenges; whenever one central government attempts to manage such a populous and politically diverse domain, it enters a sticky situation. Not only is there a problematic balance of power between Sacramento and California localities, but within their tough political reality lies an uneven tug of war between adamant republicans and the liberal majority. Fortunately for Stone, the 13 counties involved in his succession plan house most of those headstrong republicans. So his idea follows as such, “The real division would not one between northern and southern California, but internal and coastal California. This would divide the state in a way that makes political sense: liberals in coastal California and conservatives in east California,” he adds. “It would allow the liberals to increase taxes to pay for those services they want, and the conservatives to reduce regulations and taxes in their state.”
On paper, Stone’s solution looks like a legitimate answer to Cali’s governmental crunch. However professor at Claremont McKenna College, Jack Pitney, points out that even with the regionalization of conservatives and liberals, there would be incredibly difficult knots to comb through in this divorce, “Secession would be like a divorce, which typically leaves both spouses worse off economically. And like a divorce, it would be bad for the kids,” says Pitney. “The new state would now be responsible for services that California provides, such as regional centers for the disabled. And both sides would have to work out difficult issues, such as ‘custody’ of the University of California at Riverside and other state facilities.”
Many say that maybe Stone hit a nerve in highlighting the glitches in his hefty state’s government, but is trying to heal the wound with the wrong Bound-aid. James Mayer, the excecutive director of California Foreward summed up this sentiment perfectly,” Indeed, California is too big, too diverse and too complex to be micromanaged by a dysfunctional legislature in the capital. But the answer is to get the state to devolve more of its authority to localities and community-level government,not to secede.”
The likelihood that a 51st state will peel away from its parent is slim, but at least Stone’s idea got the super-state talking about more interest-specific ways to govern itself, which means putting power in the hands of the little people.