The country hasn’t had a good emotional outcry for independence in quite a while. In fact, given the state of the nation’s polarized political views, it’s about time we hear rumblings of yet another attempt at seccession. This time, it’s California that’s calling for a rebrand. Residents in this state have organized to declare independence and push for “New California,” a state that would be completely separate from urban coastal California areas.
So, what is New California? And is a 51st state really possible? Here is what we know so far about New California’s push for independence.
Explaining the independence move:
Frustration has given way to action. Founders Robert Paul Preston and Tom Reed have launched a campaign that would officially divide rural California from its urban coastal cities. The San Francisco Chronicle reported this recent attempt at succession is motivated by a “tyrannical form of government” that fails to follow state and federal constitution. The new state would be named “New California” derived from counties that pledge allegiance to the movement.
Next: What will “New California” look like?
What is New California?
Should this movement gain traction, New California would become the sixth-largest state and garner 25 to 27 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. With 15 million people, it would also become one of the most populous states in the country. Old, or shall we say original, California would have 25 million residents within its state lines.
Counties are still filing in when it comes to supporting the succession, but highly urbanized areas such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara will stay separate. Other counties such as Riverside and Sacramento have recently expressed interest in joining the movement.
Next: What led to this push for independence?
Why is this happening now?
The two founders wish to consolidate rural California into an independent economy separate from the coast because they believe the citizens of the state live “under a tyrannical form of government that does not follow the California and U.S. Constitutions.”
A document published online outlining their wishes is detailed in part, yet surprisingly vague in other, more important categories. For instance, why a separation now? And what will it prove?
“After years of over taxation, regulation, and mono-party politics the State of California and many of its 58 Counties have become ungovernable,” the group told USA Today. They want civic betterment and social improvements, citing a “decline in essential basic services” including education, health care, law enforcement, and infrastructure.
Party organizers believe separation is the path to freedom from an ungovernable state with super high taxes. As we’ll see later, whether it’ll work, or back fire, is another matter entirely.
Next: Is this attempt at seccession even legal?
Is it legal?
Yes, according to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, an independence movement like this is well within legal rights. It could be a decision they regret, but the founders have evoked Article IV Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution. However, moving the process along will be harder than it seems.
Step one was declaring independence from the state of California, which they’ve already done. The next step is convincing the rest of California of their plans. A consensus must be reached by the state legislature before ever reaching Congress for approval. The process of working with the state could take 10 to 18 months, according to the SF Chronicle.
Next: Why California’s bid to become the 51st state is nothing new
Who else has attempted independence?
California council representatives are not the only ones who’ve vied for stately independence throughout history. In fact, New California is modeling their division after the West Virginia / Virginia split in 1861. Puerto Rico, Vermont, and Alaska are a few other states actively pursuing separatist movements now, though factions in those states want to leave the U.S. entirely.
It’s also not the first time California has attempted to modify state borders. The New California campaign resembles the “Six Californias” initiative, which proposed dividing California into six regional states to make government more responsive to the people. That movement failed to produce enough signatures to make it onto the 2016 ballot. We’ll see if New California can break the mold.
Next: What is New California’s economic plan? Do they even have one?
How will the new state survive?
The campaign’s official website boasts very little detail outlining how the new state plans to sustain its 15 million potential residents. But they do have a flag already designed. Conveniently, though, their new state map would include both California coastal and mountain regions, giving them access to sea ports and beaches that help sustain economies. They’ll also retain profitable sections of popular ski resort towns but lose counties in wine country like Sonoma and Napa.
Other than confirming their need to prove they can govern themselves before being allowed to do so, the team has not yet provided insight on what their economy would look like. California produces almost all the country’s almonds, apricots, and other crops — areas that New California would govern. The state is also a leader in tech and manufacturing initiatives – all businesses that would remain in California under the proposed split.
Next: Will rural Californians rue the day they decided to turn on their state’s economic engines?
Will it work?
The campaign references high taxes, poor health care, housing declines, and “business climate” as reasons for division. “There’s something wrong when you have a rural county such as this one, and you go down to Orange County which is mostly urban, and it has the same set of problems, and it happens because of how the state is being governed and taxed,” Preston told CBS Sacramento earlier this year.
Is it a smart idea to cut ties with a state that generates nearly $2.6 trillion in GDP and boast the sixth largest economy in the world? Probably not. Most of that economic prosperity comes from the large cities New California would leave behind like Los Angeles. However, San Diego, the state’s second-largest city, would be part of New California. That being said, California has one of highest poverty rates in the nation, so a gripe with current governing styles could be valid.
Next: This is all fascinating stuff, but what’s the likelihood that New California actually forms?
How likely is it that this declaration becomes official?
Let’s call a spade a spade. Will New California actually become the 51st state? The official website notes the founders would prefer to have 40 counties in their arsenal to have clout with the state legislature. Right now, 17 have joined forces.
The fact is, New California has little chance of succeeding, but the group continues to push forward in an organized fashion. It’ll be at least 10 months before they’re ready to work with the state. At the very least, this latest push for independence demonstrates just how frustrated the American people are with government — on both sides of the aisle. And this separatist initiative isn’t likely to be the last call for action we see.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.
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