Secession Moves Forward in California

A plan to split California into three pieces won't pass in the November election, but the important thing is that it's on the ballot. Independence movements will arise where there is a political and cultural infrastructure, but in order to create a new nation or state, one must first believe it exists. This ballot initiative will seed the idea of new states in the minds of the voters. As goes California, so goes the nation.

The bar for secession from California (an amicable breakup) is much lower than for secession from the United States. It's still a difficult process because the federal government must approve it. If California splits in three it will create 4 new senators, potentially tipping the balance in the Senate from an almost even split. The Civil War was triggered by the addition of new states into the Union because the Southern States realized they would be permanently outvoted by the Yankees.

If California does break up, other states will likely follow. There are several states that have a high population urban centers than dominate a geographically far larger rural region. As was the case in the past, the urban-rural split is a major fault line in politics. Heated debates and intense polarization over abortion, gun control, taxes, healthcare and education would decline significantly if these regions split. Gun control, for instance, is almost entirely a rural-urban issue. In red state cities there is greater Republican support for gun control and in the most rural blue state of Vermont, there is the least gun control in all of the USA. (Vermont has had a small, but spirited, independence movement in the past. See What Would It Look Like If Vermont Seceded?)

There is already a small independence movement in New York that seeks separation from New Your City and Long Island or a breakup into three autonomous regions. Illinois would also be a candidate for a breakup, as would any other city with a strong enough claim to statehood. (There's no reason why there couldn't be city-states, but the U.S. has no history of it beyond the District of Columbia.) If states such as New York and Illinois broke in two, it would create new Republican Senators, offsetting a potential increase in Democrat Senators from three California's.

A California break up would open the floodgates as extant independence movements go from fringe to mainstream. It will also create demand from voters in other states who may want more break-ups to keep the national political balance. Finally, if the process isn't carried out peacefully amid falling social mood, it is also possible that it could be a domino that pushes the United States closer to civil war because the outcome could permanently impair the fortunes of one of the two major political parties.

LATimes: In November, California will consider splitting into three states
The “Cal-3” initiative is the brainchild of Tim Draper, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who just a few years ago envisioned carving California into six states.

Yes, the proposal faces unbelievably high hurdles — both legally and politically. But Draper spent enough money to qualify his proposal for the ballot, and you can expect a political season full of questions about California’s future, some which could be valuable about defining what the state is really about and what its citizens want.

It’s worth noting that I’ve asked Draper a number of questions about what’s next for his ballot proposition. We’ll post updates on our Essential Politics news feed.

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