And Then There Were Three

A California ballot initiative proposes splitting the state into three.

California's robust referendum system has placed an idea on the ballot that has banging around for some time. Cal-3, the measure that met the 600,000 vote threshold to make the November ballot, proposes dividing the state into three new states with roughly the same population, comparable median household income and sufficient industry within their borders.

The proponents of this move cite California's poor rankings on everything from education to quality of life to make the case for splitting the state. Perhaps the most ironic thing the group asserts is that better decision making and accountability improve when decisions are made closer to those affected by them. Yes, that is correct. An activist group in California is making making the case for a more limited role of central government.

Oddly, I came across this concept a few weeks ago. On a Ben Shapiro Sunday Special, Ben interviewed Dr. Drew Pinsky. It was a bit surreal since the last time I had seen the two in the same frame, Shapiro was assaulted by Zoey Tur, but I decided to watch. I'll admit Dr. Drew was far more interesting than I would have guessed, as well as far closer to the center politically than I assumed.

At about 57:50 in the video, Dr. Drew is talking about his admiration of the Founding Father's and their creation of a system based on ideas. After encouraging listeners to learn more about our nation and our history, he says:

As another sidebar, I am gravely concerned about California. I am gravely concerned about it. Here's why, there's a million reasons to be concerned and we have already gone over some of them. Direct democracies never survive, throughout human history.

Dr. Drew then goes on to explain the state's referendum system, which he classifies as a form of direct democracy that much of the rest of the country doesn't understand. It was established in 1911 and essentially gave the voters of California the same power as the legislature. The citizens can actually pass laws. There were 17 statewide initiatives on the ballot along with a host of county and local initiative in 2016. Every level of government in the state operates under the same model.

He closes by asserting that he believes the history books will trace the implosion of California to this model and the state will ultimately become three different states. It's arguable that Dr. Drew was aware of this ballot initiative, but he still makes a compelling point. California has been under a form of rule designed to create the tyranny of the majority for quite some time.

The primary process in the state also does not help. Rather than party primaries, California voters approved a "Top-Two" primary in Proposition 14 during the 2010 election. All candidates, regardless of political affiliation compete in the same primary and the top two proceed to the general election.

What this has generally produced in statewide races is one Democrat and one looney far Left Progressive in the general election. Not that there's a whole lot of daylight between those spots on the political spectrum anymore. Elections have become a contest of the degree to which you lean Left, rather than about truly competing ideas and differing solutions to the problems the state faces.

Add to this the horror story from a friend in L.A. County who tells me their polling place segregates you by party in the primary process. If you are going to vote for Republican candidates you go in one line, Democrats another. It is subtle, yet effective, even though most of the people I know who live out there say the vast majority of the people they know are frustrated by the direction of the state. To get in the GOP line you are basically outing your self as a racist, homophobic bigot to everyone if you believe the folks in La-La Land.

The frustration with the system and many of California's failures on measures of resident success and satisfaction is apparent in polling, outmigration and outright defiance of state law. The so-called "Sanctuary State Law" is a very divisive issue among residents, with polling split pretty much down the middle across multiple surveys. This is further demonstrated by over a dozen cities and counties voting to join the DOJ lawsuit to fight the law.

Stories about the homelessness crisis in L.A. County, addicts shooting up in the BART stations in the Bay Area and human excrement in the streets following a back down on enforcement for petty crimes in San Francisco hit the news weekly. Dr. Drew said earlier in the show that due to the failures of basic sanitation in some areas of California, he is anticipating a disease outbreak at epidemic levels within the state in the next several months.

Given all of this is is no small wonder the outmigration from California for citizens has increased substantially. A U-Haul to leave the Bay Area for Las Vegas costs upwards of $2,000. The reverse trip costs $100. A February survey by Edelman showed that 49% of residents are looking for a way to relocate due to the high cost of living. This type of seismic migration will cause some serious brain drain and loss of taxable income. Tech company leadership is also not shy about continuing to move operations out of the state. Tim Cook has already said the new Apple campus will be located elsewhere.

I think Dr. Drew has a point. This experiment in direct democracy is going to continue to fail. California is already rated 50th among the states in quality of life. There are very few measures where the state breaks the mid to high 40's. Yet our Liberal Left Coast betters still have the insane idea that they should be able to impose their failed policy agenda on the entire country. That is some serious cognitive dissonance if you can't relate the state's policy agenda to your failure to exceed the quality of life in West Virginia or Mississippi.

Though polls indicate that the Cal-3 proposition is not likely to pass in 2018, it won't be the first time measures are resurrected in subsequent elections. The Top -Two Primary was voted on twice before passage. However, one has to wonder if the new states would opt to function any differently than the combined one does now. While the proponents of this initiative have certainly diagnosed the states shortcomings and fundamental problems, it is not at all apparent they are aware of the underlying cause.

No. 1-22

@Jonah_Kyle: So I read your analysis and my reaction: so much fevered analysis for so little point.

As any Californian who has been paying attention will tell you, this ballet proposition is not the work of some shadowy cabal of progressives, but is entirely the brain child of, and largely bankrolled by, a libertarian billionaire named Tim Draper. Splitting up California seems to be an obsession of his: several years ago he backed a proposition to split California into six states. The reaction of the vast majority of Californians was eye-rolling and snark, especially at the proposed name for the new state made out of the SF Bay Area: Silicon Valley (The State of Silicon Valley? Really Tim Draper? REALLY?). The proposition failed to make it on the ballot.

As he himself would tell you, the current division he is proposing isn't part of an insidious plot to create two progressive states. It was his attempt to create states of roughly the same population and of roughly the same economic strength. One of the problems with the six-state proposal was that the states were of vastly unequal economic strength.

It is very unlikely this proposition will pass. The only survey taken so far showed 72% of Californians against it. Neither the Democratic and Republican parties support it. The challenges of dividing up the state are enormous and it would not be a pretty process politically--I doubt most Californians have the stomach for it. Most view this as a pet hobby of a billionaire who has money to waste. (Fun fact: there have been over two hundred proposals to divide up California since its statehood. Yet here we still are--one state.)


I wrote the first major political analyis on what I call the California 3-State Progressive Monte, which describes how this process creates two uber-progressive states, and one moderate-right state that trends leftward, precariously affecting the Federal Congressional reapportionment process. It's worth the read:


This would required Congress to approve. Status Quo power: Congressional Districts and adding 4 Senators would rock the boat. Never going to happen


@Stacey_Lennox: You are wrong about Apple not expanding in California. In addition to the $5 billion ApplePark headquarters Apple just built, they are putting the finishing touches on a 3rd campus in Silicon Valley to accommodate planned expansion. See here:

The folks at Cal3 pulled the worst rankings that California received out of a host of rankings in the Leading States Index. Somehow they didn't bother to mention that California ranked 11th in Health Care, 1st in Public Health, 4th in Higher Education, 7th in 4-Year College Graduation Rate, 4th in Economy, 1st in GDP growth, 1st in Business Environment, 4th in Entrepreneurship, 9th in Household income, 1st in Corrections. There were many other factors that California scored above average on.


Apple has built campuses all over the globe. They are still HQ'd in California and I can't see them changing that after they just dropped $5B+ on their new spaceship. They are also building new satellite campuses and improving older campuses throughout the state...they certainly are expanding in California!! If they were to build another campus outside of California for "tax purposes" I can guarantee it would basically be a skeleton crew compared to California. Accountants and whatnot at most. That's not real expansion. I can't see Tim Cook leaving for some other campus because he just built himself heaven on earth for a CEO. He likes and believes in California, which is why he dropped so much money on the most expensive corporate HQ in history. Facebook and Google have also done the exact same thing with their own money. So has pretty much every major player in the Tech and Online industry except Amazon.

With Apple, all of the engineering, hardware, software and design jobs would still be in California, because people actually enjoy living there despite the taxes, cost of living, droughts, fires, earthquakes. Nobody wants to move to Deleware. California continues to grow steadily at a rate that makes most states envious. Unless you can somehow convince people that living in California is actually terrible(it isn't) that's not going to change - and considering nobody has ever managed to change the population trajectory there, I don't think there's a chance in hell of that happening in the next century - barring some cataclysm. If that were to happen, it would hurt the country as a whole just as badly as it would hurt California.