I love California. It is where I was born and, though self-exiled to this obnoxiously humid side of the country, still consider it home. The size and scope of the state make it the most variety-filled in the Union, and due to the complexities of my family when I was growing up I got to experience a great many different aspects of the Golden State. Most of my grandparents are immigrants in one way or another, and found there way to the Western coast in the last century. I was born in Cedars Sinai, a well-known hospital in the middle of Los Angeles. Most of my family works in entertainment, and I grew up around movie sets as if that were a normal aspect of life, and was exposed to that particular feature of California. However, I also spent half of my time up along the beautiful central coast in the small town of Lompoc, just north of Santa Barbara, trading movie sets for the ruins of the old Spanish Missions and hikes along the Santa Ynez riverbed.
Lompoc was once known as the flower seed capital of the world, and many of my school friends up in Santa Maria (closest Catholic high school to Lompoc) came from families that ran farms or vineyards. It is also host to Vandenberg Air Force Base, and from my back porch we could see four of the rocket launch pads and had a great view whenever a missile was launched into the heavens. I learned how to drive both along the backcountry roads of the Santa Ynez Valley and the dangerously fun roads of Mulholland Drive. I attended symphonies at the Hollywood Bowl and the carnival at the Lompoc Flower Festival. I shopped in the Los Angeles Farmer's Market back before the Euro-wannabe Grove was put there, and regularly went to a real farmers market in the country of the central coast. My grandfather was a steel industrialist in the City of Industry and a noted philanthropist among the Jewish community in Los Angeles, and my step-grandfather was a gun-toting, boot-wearing sheriff in Santa Barbara County with a bust of John Wayne in his living room. Summers and nice weekends I would like to slip down towards Carlsbad to visit my cousins and enjoy the beautiful beach life of the southern coast. One of my favorite memories as a child was a day my Cub Scout group went up to the mountains to play in the snow for the day, and then had a cookout down on the beach for dinner. I love California and the experiences I had there.
Perhaps because of my love for the state and my somewhat unique life experiencing many different facets of her growing up, I have long been opposed to the oft-brought up notion of splitting the state up into smaller states. After watching the elections of 2008 and 2010, though, and the continued failures of Sacramento to fix the many, many great wrongs that Californians are suffering at the hands of government policy, I have started to become more amenable to the idea. The rotten stench of government bureaucracy and the centralization of politics has long been dulling the gleam of the Golden State, and has now pushed it not only to a precipice but, perhaps, even off the cliff already. Perhaps splitting it is the only parachute available to dull the coming crash. However, the recent proposal from Riverside County Supervisor
Jeff Stone to split off the southern and Inland Empire counties and form "South California" is not a viable solution; what he proposes, which would cut off Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties from the south, is simply an extreme form of political gerrymandering.
However, a real North/South split is not such a ludicrous proposal. My roommate earlier this year was from the Bay Area, and we got to talking frequently about how different Northern Californians are from Southern Californians. Indeed, I realized that I never even went further north of San Luis Obispo in my life save from a trip to San Francisco once and occasional trips to the San Simeon area; I always complained that it was too cold and gray up there (words I ate upon attending college in Ohio!) and that the people dressed a little differently and were simultaneously neither as relaxed nor as formal as we in the south (a difficult notion to really explain), and that they had silly words like "hella
" in their vocabulary, and Napa people were snobby about their wines compared to the central vineyards. Most of this is exaggeration, of course, but you do seem to head into a bit of a different land when you get up past Big Sur and Fresno. A split in half right about there between north and south makes sense. The north maintains the Port of San Francisco, the industry of Silicon Valley, and the fertile farmlands like Napa. The south maintains the Port of Los Angeles, the good land of the central coast and valley, and the industry of the southland (mostly aeronautics). Good and attractive universities and tourism centers remain in both. It would allow government to become a bit more localized, which is good for the south in particular as there are almost as many people between Los Angeles and San Diego as there are in Texas. The subsequent reorganization of counties, congressional districts, and some municipalities might do a lot in the long-term for federalism and lessen the burden on the weakened Californian economy.
Of course, it is not an easy thing and would not happen any time soon, nor would it solve all of California's many, many ills. Democrats will fight it tooth and nail for it will make federal politics a bit more competitive with the conservative-leaning southland and inland areas of southern California wielding a lot more leverage over Los Angeles and the coastal cities. For fear of increasing the numbers of Republican senators and losing the edge California usually gives them in the Electoral College they will fight it. As splitting the state would likely require a full constitutional amendment in addition to the approval of the state government, some deal would have to be made to make this happen-- a likely case being statehood for the District of Columbia or Puerto Rico (Ilya Somin gives his thoughts
on this over at the Volokh Conspiracy). The odds are huge and thus unlikely, at least within the foreseeable future, but perhaps more people may come around to the idea that one of the best ways to begin to revive our lovely land by the sea would be easing the burden on Sacramento and localizing government more by a split. I'm still not entirely sold, but it certainly seems worth seriously considering.