Congratulations to New California, America’s 51st State!

Just kidding. This is a ridiculous idea that will never happen, and it would backfire on its conservative supporters even if it did.

A few years ago, conservatives attempted to take over Kansas. It wasn’t hard, since Kansas was already a very conservative place. The state hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932, the longest such streak in the nation. But Kansas was a generically Republican kind of state that prized fiscal responsibility over radical bomb-throwing. So when then-Gov. Sam Brownback implemented a tax-slashing program to create a corporate utopia in the heartland, even some Republicans had misgivings about how drastic this “shot of adrenaline” was.

Naturally, Brownback’s promises of boundless prosperity never came to pass, although huge budget shortfalls did. Job growth in the state never came close to expectations, so Kansas had to raise regressive sales taxes to close the gap. Apparently, the Laffer Curve is a myth and you can’t just reduce taxes to near zero and maintain functioning school and highway systems. Democrats have known this for 40 years. But Republican economic orthodoxy will never admit defeat. It cannot fail; it can only be failed.

Here in California, conservatives simply cannot grapple with the state’s success because their dogma simply can’t account for a high-tax, high-services state doing as well as California is. It’s like creationists grappling with Galapagos finches. According to them, California simply has to be “ungovernable” — their pejorative of choice — and if it manages to be governable anyway, it’s only because of “tyranny” (a term that’s so very 2010, but with Trump in the White House, they have to redirect their ire from Washington to Sacramento).

A lot of people seem to want California gone altogether. (Do liberals really feel that way about any other states?). By there’s a reason: It’s simply true that without us, Donald Trump would have won a majority of the popular vote, legitimizing his bizarre electoral triumph. (And because this is a majority-minority state, and brown people skew Democratic, to them that means Trump’s claim that millions of “illegals” voted is true — anyway, that’s the bizarro-conservative rabbit hole.)

We’ve also long known California Republicans feel tyrannized because their xenophobic, myth-based ideology can’t win them many elections outside of rural areas, the Central Valley, and a handful of rich, suburban districts down south. Understandably, this is frustrating, since the Republican Party is basically at its maximum reach in approximately 35 other states. But when right-wing white people feel locked out of power they believe to be theirs by right, they usually move to change the rules of the game, often by disenfranchising people of color.

So the State of New California declared independence yesterday, hoping to create a utopia based on something-something-liberty, just like circa-2013 Kansas. The group’s statement has a tri-corner hat, Tea Party-ish flavor, with lots of late-18th-century verbiage to make its writers sound like they read the Constitution nightly before saying their prayers. (It also says they were aiming for independence on Jan. 15. Pretty shrewd of them to stall one day more, until after Martin Luther King Day had passed. As they say: optics!)

The idea is a total non-starter, of course, since the New Californians would have to petition both the state legislature and then Congress, and no state has been carved out of another state since West Virginia in 1863. (Even then, that was only because Virginia had bolted to the Confederacy.) Once in a while, you hear about movements to take over states. Libertarians tried to refashion New Hampshire in their own likeness and image at one point. But the desire burns hotter in the Golden State, because one in eight Americans lives here.

New California is just the latest in a long string of efforts to save California by destroying it. A few years ago, there was Six Californias, a billionaire Bitcoin dude’s plan that would just so happen to create the richest and poorest states in the U.S., by design. It failed to make the ballot, so that same Silicon Valley guy, Tim Draper, has now come out with a simplified Three Californias. There’s also the long-simmering State of Jefferson that intends to merge the northern third of the state with southern Oregon, largely because they feel evil, liberal San Francisco (population 880,000) somehow dominates the whole state (population 39 million). 

The State of New California seems like a desire for symbolic revenge more than anything. And it has the ugliest map of all these proposals. For starters, it looks suspiciously like a gerrymandered Congressional district, glomming together much of Greater Sacramento with the Bay Area and the Central Coast down to Los Angeles, freeing the rest of the state from our clutches. Why is that so suspicious? Well, even the federal court system is getting wise to the outsized role that naked racism plays in conservative-led gerrymandering schemes. And that’s just within existing states, not an effort to establish a purification program by ejecting liberals altogether. Second, it appears as though New California is taking seven of our nine national parks away, leaving us with only Pinnacles and the Channel Islands. Hell. No.

But more importantly, it’s a doomed mission. Half of the underlying idea of New California is that by jettisoning the most liberal parts of the state, they can not govern themselves in a Trumpian fashion according to the dictates of trickle-down economics. Maybe they can put up a border wall against the leftovers of Old California for good measure, giving alt-right trolls a real thrill. But the other half is the potential to add two more reliably Republican seats to the Senate, which might slip out of GOP control this November (if a huge number of things go right).

That is a very dubious conclusion. First, they want to hang on to Santa Clara, Sonoma, and Contra Costa counties in an effort to produce a right-wing state. Not too bright. (Also, thanks for the discontinuous ribbon you’re leaving us. Can we at least have one of those three counties back so that we can actually drive from one end of Old California to the other without having to enter New California? Jeez.)

But look at what’s happening in the genuinely Republican territory claimed by New California. Two entrenched Republican incumbents announced last week they weren’t running for re-election, and several others are considered to be in serious jeopardy. Fine: 2018 might be a wave year, and after that, the electoral gyroscope will reset itself and conservatives will assume control once again. Or would they? New California, like America, will only get more diverse, and diversity goes hand-in-hand with increased progressivism. In reality-based California, it also goes hand-in-hand with economic prosperity, saner cannabis policies, a reduced carceral state, better health care, and much more. It’s happening here, and it might even happen soon in Texas, four or eight years from now.

Suddenly, New California feels like the manifestation of a desire to create a largely white ethno-state before it’s too late. But it already is.


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