Advancing a Free Society

How to Succeed in … Seceding from California?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Seeing as it’s a time when we remember 13 colonies with the courage to go it alone, let’s ponder the notion of 13 California counties who may soon wage their own battle for independence.

You laugh?

Jeff Stone, a Riverside County Supervisor, thinks it’s a grand time to create a 51st state – “South California”, he calls it – consisting of Fresno, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Tulare counties (click here to see its size and shape).

Under Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, the first dramatic step would be approval by the State Legislature.

Sadly,which makes this a one-act play.

There’s no way the liberal Democrats who run the show in Sacramento will give the go-ahead to a group of disaffected conservatives and libertarians down south. Not to mention the number of electoral votes that would go to the GOP in subsequent presidential elections.

After that, Congress would have to vote in favor of the 51st state. And that, in turn, would require some serious horse-trading on Capitol Hill – two new Republican senators from South California offset by, say, two new Democratic senators from the newly minted state of Puerto Rico.

Ok, so go ahead and laugh – especially since ever-kooky California has considered more than two-dozen different approaches to secession, dating back to the Civil War.

Residents of the Golden have argued over whether to draw a dividing line across the Tehachapi range, a vertical line spanning statewide north to south, to partition the nation-state into three parts, or to Balkanize the California colossus into a patchwork of smaller states.

Not to mention the “red state” solution: physically severing California from its western neighbors and letting it float out to sea . . .

So, while this secession idea is likely to go only as far as Jay Leno and Jon Stewart, it’s worth noting that the impetus for this latest secession talk would be some very common complaints about life in the Golden State.

According to Supervisor Stone, that would include:

  • California’s taxes among the highest in the nation, yet public services are deteriorating and state budgets drain resources needed to help local residents.
  • Regulations to control greenhouse gasses have chased businesses out of California and devastated the economy.
  • Political infighting has paralyzed the state for over a decade.
  • Public assistance. California is only 12% of the U.S. population, but has about 30% of the nation’s welfare load.
  • Illegal immigration. California provides such benefits as in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, minimizing the financial resources available for legal residents.
  • Education. California ranks 48th among states in test scores by one measure, yet devotes a healthy portion of the state budget to K-12 school.

So what would South California look like? According to Stone, a “reasonable” sales taxes and controlling property taxes a la Proposition 13; borders would be enforced; a part-time legislature whose members earn only $600 a month.

(Someone would have to figure what to do with three UC campuses in Irvine, Riverside and San Diego – none of which has a football team.)

For the record, California is not the only state to vent its frustration in the direction of secession . . .

In February of this year, Tucson politicians and activists launched a Facebook “Start our State” page to secede from Arizona. Various proposals would have northern Nevada joining northern California, eastern Nevada joining Utah, and southern Nevada remaining its own entity. In March 2010, a Maine lawmaker submitted legislation converting the state’s southernmost counties into a new state called“Northern Massachusetts” (not to be confused with other efforts to have Maine secede from the union and join Canada; and expressing a popular sentiment among Maine’s northern residents that they, not their southern counterparts, are the state’s genuine article).

And so, on the July 4th weekend, we hold this truth to be self-evident: Californians may be talking secession, but they're not the only Americans who want to add more stars to the stripes.