A group of enthusiasts has been slowly and steadily working toward splitting California into two states. Unlike other attempts, they are following the constitutional model of the formation of West Virginia. They have come surprisingly far.
The Dream of Secession
You may probably have heard of many projects and proposals for either seceding from the union or forming a new state. Most of them are dead on arrival. Until recently, the most realistic bid has been either for Texas to secede from the union or break up into six states. Texas is the only state that was an independent country before it joined the union. It could secure a better deal because of a better negotiating position, allowing it to potentially secede or break up into six states without congressional approval.
Cal 3 attempted to break up California into three separate states, spearheaded by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper in 2017. It got much media attention because Draper poured millions of dollars into the project. However, it ran into legal issues, which ultimately killed it.
Many people thought that was the end of the story and that California was forever destined to remain united. Enter New California. Unlike other attempts, the New California project builds on the successful model with which West Virginia achieved statehood.
In 1861, Virginia seceded from the United States and joined the Confederacy. In response to this seditious act, West Virginia declared statehood and seceded from Virginia. It was admitted into the United States in 1863, after approval by Congress. The constitution was interpreted such that only the Legislature of West Virginia and the U.S. Congress needed to consent.
New California plans to follow the West Virginia path to statehood by first creating the necessary government bodies to prove viability, and then declare independence from California and request approval by Congress. According to their plan, around five urban counties will remain in California, and the rest form New California. Although geographically dissimilar, the two states will be roughly equal in population size – one urban and one rural.
Nine counties have already recognized New California, and significant progress is expected when 40 counties have joined.
Rural v Urban America
Whether New California will join the many previous stillborn projects remains to be seen. However, if it works, it paves the way for reshaping American politics in a new way that could resolve one of the most pressing political polarization problems in America. The pattern is the same across the nation: Rural counties vote Republican, and urban counties vote Democrat. The difference is dramatic. This pattern ensures that roughly half of the population will be miserable no matter who wins power in a state.
New California shows a way out by creating two entities with politically and culturally homogenous populations, one urban and the other rural. Could the same process eventually be repeated all over America? If so, there could eventually be 100 states in the union.