California’s Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone made some waves this week, pushing for the Republican parts of Southern and Central California to secede from the evil liberal metropolises of Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Undoubtedly, once those high income areas with their substantial property values and dynamic job markets are no longer around to encumber the creatively named state of South California, it will turn into a low-tax paradise on a par with Florida or Alabama. More realistically, the bedraggled California Republicans probably just want to know what it’s like to sit in the Speaker’s chair.
The legal implications of trying to secede are straightforward: Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution says that both the state legislature of the seceding state and Congress must approve the splitting up of the state. West Virginia did it back in the 19th Century, but as long as LA and San Fran don’t decide that they really need to be their own country, that example isn’t applicable. On the one hand, California Dems may see this as a way to ensure utter Democratic domination in the state. Overwhelming Democratic majorities would probably overcome all the procedural hurdles that currently make California so sclerotic. On the other, anyone with a national view (say the Democrats who currently control the Senate and would need to approve this secession plan) should recognize this as a way for Republicans to radically swing the electoral college calculus by decreasing the number of Cali’s Democratic electors.
Although Stone’s plan is the latest in a long line of schemes that will never happen, the 25–30 largest states should think hard about getting together and splitting up into smaller units. The Electoral College and the Senate both provide disproportionate representation for small states. A California that split along more traditional NorCal/SoCal lines would add 2 electoral votes and 2 Senators to the Democratic tally. Although most of the big states are either Democratic or swing states, Republicans in the larger states shouldn’t necessarily oppose this tack either. Texas’s demographics suggest that it may become a swing state in the next few decades. Republicans in Dallas and west Texas should consider getting out while the getting is good. Undoubtedly though, this will help the Democrats more. If the Democrats ever grab another supermajority in Congress, this is the tack they should go after to create a truly permanent Democratic majority.