Is One California Really Enough?

california-flagIs it time for Californians to seriously consider breaking up their state into smaller portions? We’ll soon see if they think so after Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper’s latest plan to turn California into three Californias has qualified for the November ballot. Unfortunately, it won’t fix most of the problems that ail our massive and ungovernable state because of the way the plan draws the borders. Breaking up is a good idea, but it has to be done the right way.

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Even if the initiative passes, it would only be a start in a long and arduous process that would ultimately require the approval of Congress and probably the state Legislature (depending on how the courts rule). Don’t start designing the new state flags quite yet. In what world will California legislators calmly give up power or Congress consider turning one state into three? The Draper-backed measure has gotten national attention, but it’s little more than an advisory vote, although his plan is more feasible than a couple of other break-up proposals.

Timing for the initiative is pretty good though, coming on the tail end of a primary election that has reminded us that virtually every other political reform idea here has failed. Last week’s wild California primary election was defined by a relatively new “top two” system that was supposed to moderate the extremes in each party and give voters a greater say in their representation. It was just the latest “rearrange the deck chairs” solution.

Under the new primary system, the top two vote getters move on to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. It’s hard to conclude that it did much this year in the governor’s race as liberal Democrat, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, faces off in November against Republican businessman John Cox, a Trump-backed conservative from the San Diego area. This is a standard political match up — and one that heavily favors continued Democratic dominance. Republicans are unlikely to win any statewide office in November.

Other recent process-oriented reforms included a non-partisan redistricting committee that has made no discernible difference in the Legislature’s make up and allowing the Legislature to pass budgets with a simple majority vote rather than a supermajority. The latter “reform,” pushed by business-oriented moderates, reduced partisan bickering by totally cutting Republicans out of the process. It has paved the way for budgets that set spending records. What a triumph.

The problem, it seems, is more fundamental than anything that could be addressed by tinkering with political rules. This state runs nearly 800 miles from the border at Tijuana to the Oregon border. Some of those tiny eastern states — Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware — wouldn’t be more than a decent county out here. In fact, San Bernardino County is larger geographically than nine individual states and the four smallest states combined (those above three plus Hawaii). Considered in context, then, Draper’s idea isn’t so unreasonable.

Los Angeles County, with its 10 million population, is more populous than 41 states. Practically speaking, it’s hard for any Republican to win statewide office when one of its 58 counties has that many people — and its electorate votes overwhelmingly Democratic. The end result is people who live in the agricultural Central Valley, the rural resource-oriented north state, or in relatively conservative suburban coastal areas have little say in statewide governance. It’s the kind of problem that nationally was addressed by the Electoral College. Maybe there’s nothing else to do than break up the state into more sensible, self-governing portions?

Draper’s particular plan comes up short, though. Californians have been arguing about their state boundaries since it was admitted into the union in 1850. There have been more than 200 efforts since then to rearrange its boundaries, which were the product of happenstance and greed (the desire to grab as many of the gold fields as possible). It’s fine to try it again, but the reason for any current break up has to be clear. It’s not only to create smaller, more geographically compatible portions. It’s to give the state’s more conservative regions a chance to unyoke themselves from the liberal Democrats who have complete control of the place.

Draper had previously proposed a six-state solution that artfully solved most of the above-mentioned political problems, but he chiseled it down to three states to provide something more politically palatable to voters. The main impetus for a break up has come from residents of the low-population north state through a State of Jefferson movement that used to include southern Oregon counties. Its purpose is depicted by the two “X’s” that are on its proposed state flag. Residents have been double-crossed by politicians in Sacramento and Salem.

But this plan double crosses them again by drawing Northern California’s boundary so far south that it grabs the entire San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento. Instead of getting greater independence, these residents would get the same situation, only worse. San Francisco area voters will have more influence in that region than they currently have now in the Golden State. Draper then puts Los Angeles in with the state’s left-leaning Central Coast, thus creating a second state that’s still called California. That makes sense. The third state, Southern California, includes the more conservative southern suburban areas (Orange County, San Diego, the Inland Empire) and grabs a large swath of the San Joaquin Valley, the state’s agricultural heartland.

That’s a reasonable new state, also. It would become something of a political toss up, given that its main population areas are trending Democratic. My three-state proposal is far better. I would put California’s most liberal coastal areas into one long state that goes from Long Beach through the Bay Area to the northern border of Mendocino and cuts inland to grab Yolo (the college town of Davis) and government-centric Sacramento. This will be a progressive’s Nirvana, with counties that are totally compatible culturally, geographically, and politically. (I’d have to move, of course, but I can’t let personal considerations get in the way of a good map!)

Then the State of Jefferson will include the rural north state and drop down and grab most of the Central Valley. It will be a solid red state. Then the new state of Southern California will include the major Southern counties sans Los Angeles and run east through the desert regions and up through the eastern Sierra. It will be a purple state. This breakdown provides better representation for everyone, but doesn’t dramatically change the balance of power.

Even with the coming initiative ballot, it’s all largely for the intellectual exercise given its low likelihood of happening. Nevertheless, all good ideas start with thought experiments, so it’s important to get the maps right. Perhaps at some point we’ll all realize that California, in its current geographical framework, is unsalvageable — and that better boundaries will lead to better governance.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him

This article was originally published by the American Spectator


  1. Why would Californians want to downgrade our U.S. and world leadership by splitting into three small states? We are the fifth largest economy in the world and with this status we are the envy of all. Although we have problems such as homelessness, undocumented workers, health care for all, and the takeover of public schools by Wall Street vultures, we can solve these and still retain our powerhouse position in the nation and globally.

    • You forget all the other great things about the state like the most people living in poverty, the largest debt of any state, close to the lowest student achievement of any state, the highest gas prices in the us, the most cities filing for bankruptcy, the worst taxes just to name a few

    • Walter Elliot Armstrong says


    • Ellen, you stated the very reasons why we need to split up our state and we will. Our votes are nullified by illegal aliens that are welcome in Los Angeles and San Francisco, but not the rest of the counties.

      We can’t fix the things you stated are wrong. We’ve tried. Jerry Brown and his gang of thugs ensure that we can’t. This is the best way to have our votes counted and get our own counties back. Sorry you fell the way you do. We need your vote to fix it.

      • True Teacher says

        You need to know who Ellen is. She might know a thing or two, or a hundred, about voter registration. And about undocumented voters. Lots of people know who Ellen is and she is no friend to limited government. Not even close.

      • Rick Rund says


  2. One CA is one-too-many, which is why I – like many other Native Sons – have left.
    Seemingly, the only way to fix it is to revoke statehood, and impose a Territorial Governor to take names and kick a**.

  3. tomsquawk says

    “California government can do a better job addressing the real issues facing the state, but this measure is a massive distraction that will cause political chaos and greater inequality,” said Steve Maviglio, who is running the opposition campaign.

    He’s right; we should spend more time and money getting rid of the existing thorns in our side. It is interesting to note that this is very similar to how Bank of America outlined their Regions.

    The San Diego Union Tribune recently published their Community Almanac. Check it out; most of the areas with the most wealth had the least diversity and voted Blue. Moving inland showed more diversity in population and politics.

    Nature abhors a vacuum, let’s vacuum out Sacramento first. A split up may create a vacuum for opportunists.

  4. Donald J. says

    John and Askeptic, between the two of you you have identified the real modern day California and most of it’s root problems. The decay of a once great State has been undermined by Liberal Socialists/Progressives and their quest for full implementation of the CPUSA Agenda. And Ellen Lubic if I’m correct I believe California is now in seventh place as far as an economy but not sure how the huge future debt load is calculated into that claim..

    • California had dropped from 6th to 7th, but recent forecasters list it as 5th now. We need to get rid of the electoral college so that California voters have equity with those few in less inhabited small states, and we might function far better without an RNC and a DNC. And we MUST get huge hidden money out of elections. A fair popular vote would be best for Californians. Taxation is a two way street. The oil companies who tap out our oil do not even pay drilling fees here, and this is only in our state. The vast number of billionaires for all over the world who have residences in our state should also be paying a real tax rate fair share. And Prop. 13 should be grandfathered for the current elder generation, but thereafter property taxation should be re evaluated, and commercial property should not fall under Prop. 13. These are only a few of my opinions to improve the financial discrepancies. Also all multi millionaire/billionaires should be paying into Social Security far beyond the minimal $186,500 a year current mandate. Banksters like Jamie Dimon who take home $24 Million a year, or more, can easily afford keeping Social Security afloat in perpetuity since the preponderance of retired Americans have it as their main retirement income. The redistribution of wealth only upward is the main cause of all the complaints you all list here. As an aside, only the author and I do not hide behind pseudonyms.

      • tomsquawk says

        thanks for protecting the grandfathers!

      • TheRandyGuy says

        “The vast number of billionaires for all over the world who have residences in our state should also be paying a real tax rate fair share. And Prop. 13 should be grandfathered for the current elder generation, but thereafter property taxation should be re evaluated, and commercial property should not fall under Prop. 13.” Spoken like a true progressive – ignorant of the law, but proposing solutions anyway. Ms. Lubic, this country doesn’t tax wealth, it taxes income. If I’m worth billions, but have no income, I pay no income tax. The rest of your drivel simply reinforces the idea of the leftists that CA has an income problem, and not a spending problem. WRONG – we have the highest taxation of all the states yet have the worst infrastructure. Pointless to argue with you folks, that’s why we are leaving in greater numbers yearly.

        • Walter Elliot Armstrong says

          TheRandyGuy: YOU NAILED IT!!

        • +1 for Randy. When I saw the Lubic comment about Wall Street Vultures taking over education, I knew we had a progressive in the mix. Perhaps Ms. Lubic meant the over powering Teachers Union instead!

      • sweetsuzee says

        You and others like you are the reason CA is defaulting everywhere on everything. We’re on the verge of BK and you want to double and triple tax billionaires who have already paid taxes on their income. How would you like to be taxed over and over again on the same money? However, it appears that you are a typical dumber than dirt progressive who knows very little about how the real world works. By the way, every time a home owner sells their property, the buyer pays the higher rates. Then Prop 13 kicks in for them to protect them from assessment jumps in times of great prosperity, regardless of how short lived. When property values go down, the taxes NEVER did. Last, but definitely not least, you obviously do not have a clue about Social Security and its mandates. You’re about 0k off !!

        • sweetsuzee says

          Oops – my keys keep sticking. Ellen, you are about $60,000 off on your SSA mandate. That will really tick you off.

          • apologize for the mistake SweetSuzee,,,you are almost correct. the cap for 2018 is only @128,400 an even worse assault on all the rest of us who do not earn that amount….we pay into the SS system our share or 15% if self employed, or half it our employer pays their mandated half…thanks for catching that.

      • True Teacher says

        How many Republican voters did you register or drive to the polls in 2016? Are you relieved that Kris Kobach isn’t in business? You really teach a college class? I heard Bill Ayers did, but he bragged about the big money and the free time that allowed him to torpedo the USA.

        • I will ignore the cheap Bill Ayers shot, since that seems to be the best that you can do. About Kris Kobach, he is a highly educated legislator from Yale and Harvard, and has a grasp of issues beyond many others in his party. As to his stance on immigrants tuition to state schools, I am 100% with him. I think in my state, anyone from out of state, immigrant or not, should pay a higher tuition. However, I abhor ripping little children from their parents and in essence, impounding them, to force the message that undocumented people should not flee to America for safety and work. It has been proven by scholars of child development that this behavior permanently scars them and destroys many of their lives. The current administration is acting. Trump and Sessions, and their enforcers, are acting like terrorists in doing this to families and children.

          • True Teacher says

            Progressives encourage open borders and illegal immigration, so please be honest. We also know that the effect of non-citizens voting disenfranchises taxpaying citizens. Yet, under the rules of Progressivism, such efforts to retain the value of the citizens’ votes is dubbed, “Voter suppression.”

  5. JUST DO IT!

  6. True Teacher says

    Long time, no see Ellen Lubic. What brings you over here?

    Here ya go, disciples:

    • Hum… you call yourself “True Teacher” but you hide behind this made up name and so no one can verify if you are any kind of teacher. I am can be verified and applaud you for doing this research to find me at other venues, and it is not my intention to insult you or others with differing opinions. I appreciate this site which allows me to write my opinions, and even has published an article of mine. They do not hide behind phony names and take potshots at those with whom they disagree. Kudos Ca. Political Review…thanks for your open minds and democratic handling of all comments.

      • True Teacher says

        That’s right, Ellen. There is no free speech for those who oppose the progressive tsunami, only swift and certain financial retaliation–an assassination, if you will, but without a weapon–killing the offending speaker’s family by starving them of an income. So I will remain anonymous to you. You see, leftism in action is not at all charitable, and redistribution is a mere trick, a sleight of hand which distracts from the totalitarian controls that leftism strives to impose. As long as people have the slightest bit of freedom they will vote with their feet and make choices that suit their needs. Any problems keeping students in LAUSD?

        The kids are getting deprived of the necessary abilities that they need in life, and that doesn’t sit well with a person like me.

        Please post a link to the article you have had published here. Thank you.

        • Don’t be lazy ‘teacher’…you should know how to research the archives.

          I teach classes on Introduction to Economics and some here seem not to have learned much about this. It is necessary to know the meaning of a ‘free market’ and ‘capitalism’ and ‘the law of supply and demand’, in order to assess with intelligence what is real and what one listens to parroted on Fox News. If you are a true conservative, then you would also believe ‘that the market sets the prices’ of all things…such as homes in California. And also if you delve into which immigrants actually change the demand, you see it is not the poor service and field workers from our Southern border, who may be undocumented, but rather, much of the rising prices in homes in, for instance, Rosemead, Monterey Park, Pasadena, Altadena, Arcadia, are the wealthy overseas Asians who want to assure themselves a safe haven in our land of the free. In addition, Trump regurgitates the MS13 gangs are killing Americans and must be deported, when in reality the Chinese gangs and Armenian gangs are far more dangerous to the general population (see LA police reports online), and worst of all are Trump’s close allies favorite gang, the Russian Mafia. His long time lawyer/fixer, Michael Cohen, has been reported to be married to a Ukranian woman whose father, claimed to be an aspiring oligarch, is also said to be from that gang which has a strong presence in gambling casinos all over the US….and even in taxi medallions. And we haven’t even gotten into the economics of tariffs, but we do see rampant disregard for our anti Trust laws with constant mega mergers of industries. When all media is in the hands of one person, and today that is mainly Rupert Murdoch, we no longer have the bulwark of democracy, a free press. And today Trump appointed a new overseer to the one consumer agency set up to protect us all from cheats like the banksters, e.g. Mnuchin of Indy Mac who defrauded endless people with phony loans. I could go on and on, but prefer to go back to writing articles on all this. So, “teacher”, being a troll instead of a clear thinker is a terrible waste of a good mind…so I would prefer facts and rational discussion “teacher” to calling anyone left of Attilla, an “assassin” as you did above. If you teach, you surely must have studied this and know that citations are vital to informed comments…even if you teach kindergarten. If indeed you are a real accredited educator like me, then you know that I am far from the enemy for I settled for a low income level in order to work to educate, and only the unions keep almost all educators from slipping below the poverty level. Clear your heads folks and try to see the enemy is not your more liberal neighbor…FOLLOW THE MONEY to see who is out to use us all as their serfs for their own greed and self interest.

          • True Teacher says

            Dear Comrade:
            You are an “education professor in LA” with no specific location.

            You can’t convince a liar or the grievance industry of the truth with all of the facts or citations in the world. So I won’t waste my time.

            Voter fraud is still a crime in this country…

          • As below from “true teacher”….since you, “t t” have nothing of substance to fall back on, you turn things around to suit your own lack of truthfulness, by calling me a “liar”, a Commie, and implying I committed “voter fraud” which is most bizarre. I suggest you read up on real law of online defamation, slander, and libel and know that you are culpable for each…and….you can be found despite your hiding behind a phony name. Many here have intelligence and make valid points but all you have, phony teacher, is venom. Finished with you, no more engaging with your false diatribes.

            Mr. Frank and editors, please note: have vast patience, but allowing this kind of dangerous and defamatory false accusation is beneath the worth of your valuable site. I would hope you address this kind of threatening behavior from someone like ‘true teacher’; who accuses me publicly of being “a liar, a Communist, and a perpetrator of election fraud” (which is a felony), and by so doing, herself/himself has committed online chargeable criminal behavior. This is the dangerous part of hiding behind pseudonyms to spew the rage of vindictive minds. I realize that since I am open about my identity that I must expect some verbal attack, but am also concerned about physical attack from those of unsound mind who traffic in rage. I am well into my dotage, a mother and a grandmother who has the bone fides as an educator for over 45 years and have seen much history evolve, e.g. the many assassinations, on going gun violence, the theft of liberty and assets, but I still try to always show respect to others, and I expect the same from them. Hope you who publish California Political Review as a legitimate purveyor of information and of opinions, will address this issue. It would be wonderful to exchange ideas and opinions here without dealing with untoward and untruthful threats, name calling, and accusations.

          • True Teacher says

            Evidently my words have offended you. I try not to do that intentionally; but while I oppose many current and long-developing educational trends that have done, in my opinion, real harm to students who can and should be learning but who are not, I often feel frustrated with the forces that are winning, and that would be your side. My words are an attack on the ideas that I oppose and they should not have been written to you. Congratulations to you; it is clear that I cannot turn back the clock. If at all possible, try to understand that I did not mean to upset a person who is, evidently, both retired and a grandmother. Please accept my apologies for my lack of manners. With that, I choose to retire from the public comments forum as well.

          • You have got to be kidding. “When all media is in the hands of one person….(Rupert Murdoch)”?!!! What?! Fox News ratings are a tiny fraction of ALL the other progressive outlets combined. And have you ever heard of a couple little guys like Jeff Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, et al? Social media — incl. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc — have been weaponized in favor of the left, and education has been ruled by lefties for generations. And ruined. I notice you don’t mention the scandalous failure of our k-12 schools, and you totally gloss over our ruinous pensions that will BK the “5th largest economy” within just a few years. Thanks, progressives.

  7. showandtell says

    Speaking of voter fraud, here is our current Secty of State saying “voter fraud–not only throughout California but throughout the country–is nearly nonexistent.” Believe it or not, that’s what he said!
    “CA Secty of State Alex Padilla Says Voter Fraud Nationwide is Nonexistent”
    Support Mark Meuser for Secretary of State, a great candidate who is running against this scoundrel.

  8. Mr. Pickle says

    I am going to vote for this. Seems crazy, but is a way to send a message. More comments on this as listed, but airheads voting the wrong way. It will never happen due to water in our state, and has been tried many times before. I don’t care for the split as shown, especially the fact that SF is in Nor Cal, and all the libs there and in local counties. This state is out of control and has been for the last 30 years under Dem control…….. ALL bad stuff is from them. They never turned down a tax or fee, spend like a 16 year old with an unlimited Credit Card of OUR money…………….. And as all know commodities of life, Gas, Utilities, Water, Housing have gone through the roof, let alone fire cost escalation for insurance costs to homeowners………… Draw lines along the coast and rename as Kalifornia, and let the libs price themselves into oblivion…………….. California WAS a great state once, but is long gone. It started with academia, teaching What to think, rather than how to think……. God help us with the current leadership. Maybe a YES vote for 3 states will shake up the status quo, be smaller and work better due to voter involvement rather than apathy………..

  9. Rick Rund says

    So good to hear about Jefferson. The main reason we moved was that many feel Jefferson will never be successful BUT it is The only way to solve many of the problems facing many in the Northern part of the state.

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