In recent years, I’ve advised Californians not to vote in state elections – democratic farces in which we elect politicians who have little power and allow tiny minorities of Californians to make nearly permanent changes in the law and constitution.
And if Californians must vote, I’ve suggested they should vote no on any ballot initiative they are not 100 percent sure of. California ballot initiatives are so hard to change that those measures that pass are likely to remain in the law or constitution until well after today’s voters are dead and gone.
But Tim Draper’s initiative to split California into 6 states is an exception to this rule. Draper has put forward an idea that can’t possibly happen, since it would require Congress to go along. And the other 49 states are never going to give California 10 new senators. And the Democratic party is never going to allow California and its giant haul of electoral college votes to be split.
So voting on Draper’s measure is, as legal matter, harmless. Indeed, its harmlessness makes it the perfect vehicle for sparking a conversation about California’s size, scale and lack of democracy.
California is, as Draper and other would-be splitters and secessionists have pointed out, far too big, both in number of people and size. Government is at once too big and too small. Too much power (albeit badly hamstrung power) is centralized in the state government in Sacramento. Other power is scattered among thousands of local governments – there are far too many – that don’t have enough power and scope to do much of anything at all except spend money (and, in too many cases, steal from the public).
But California life is actually lived at the regional level. Our major regions have the size and character of U.S. states – far more than California itself, which is more like a country than a state. But we don’t have all that much in the way of regional government – and we should. Indeed, we need to strip power from the state government and devolve it to the regions – while at the same time consolidating local governments into broader, more powerful regional bodies.
This isn’t on the agenda of any powerful player in California. But it should be. So why not take Draper’s measure and build a Draper-less campaign around it along the following lines: We don’t want to split the state, but we want you to vote for this as a way of saying that we need regional government – and need less centralized state government, and less spending-heavy, corrupt local government. A vote for this measure would be a vote for regional power.
Hijack Mr. Draper’s initiative. It’s the right thing to do.