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Secession is a threat Californians should take seriously

Jefferson County secessionists

June 16, 2023 - 7:40pm

At the height of the anti-Trump hysteria after 2016, Democrats in California talked often about “Calexit”, which would allow the Golden State to secede and, no doubt, form an ideal Ecotopia of its own. Now that the Democrats are in power in Washington and Sacramento, there are new calls to break up the Golden State, this time from more conservative regions in the state’s interior.

Since becoming a state in 1850, California has experienced over 220 break-up attempts. Much of this has been sparked by the regulatory regime in California, which has long been at odds with the more rural and suburban parts of the state. For years activists in a host of northern California counties have pushed for a breakaway “state of Jefferson”. This has appealed to pro-Trump Republicans, noting how he won most rural counties in both 2016 and 2020. 

As the New York Times reports, the area makes up one-fifth of the state’s geography, but barely 3% of its population. It is, according to the paper, “also generally whiter, older and poorer than the rest of the state.” Some have even spoken of joining other areas in the primarily conservative and rural eastern parts of Washington and Oregon to form something like “a greater Idaho”.  

But it’s not just the far north that harbours rebellious thoughts. San Bernardino County, with more than two million people, has also initiated a study about seceding from the state. The county covers a huge expanse — the largest of all US counties on the mainland — that stretches from the Los Angeles border to Arizona. Although the county is now majority Hispanic, its politics are more Right than Left, and opposed Gavin Newsom’s second term. Local legislators complain bitterly of poor treatment by the increasingly far Left city-centric politicians in Sacramento.

The revival of secessionism represents more than a revolt of the old, the white and the not-too-bright. In fact, interior California represents more of the state’s future than many may appreciate. Demographer Wendell Cox has noted that the inland parts of the state have accounted for almost two-thirds of the state’s population growth since 2000. It remains largely dominated by single family housing, which is preferred by the vast majority of the state’s population. 

In the first two years of the current decade, the Interior and Valleys grew by 120,000 residents, while coastal areas lost 621,000 residents. According to this trend, by 2048, Riverside County will have 3 million residents, up from 2.5 million in 2022. Meanwhile, San Bernardino County is expected to have 2.6 million residents in 2048, up from 2.2 million today. It is in these regions where the ultimate future of the state lies. 

If they don’t succeed in secession, the interior areas will become more powerful in the future, as the coast ages and loses population. With its falling birthrate and rising net outmigration, California, the birthplace, and global centre of youth culture, is now nearly as old as the rest of the country, but ageing 50% faster than the national norm, according to the American Community survey. Los Angeles has suffered the biggest loss of young people in the nation, haemorrhaging 750,000 people under 25 since 2000.  

At some point the voices of these inland areas could have a moderating influence on the states. Much of the interior is majority Latino, and like the white “rednecks” in the far north, these voters may be fed up with the current regime If California changes, the impetus will come from these oft neglected, but growing communities.


Joel Kotkin is the Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and author, most recently, of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class (Encounter)

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Thor Albro
Thor Albro
1 year ago

To my knowledge no one has yet to actually put secession to the vote in CA, or Eastern Oregon or Eastern Washington. So it is impossible to know what legs such a movement might have, or what legal or political barriers would arise. There is also a fantasy about some areas joining Idaho, which would require Idaho’s approval.

Any new state or reordering of borders (Greater Idaho) would require consent from Congress, which brings it’s own perils: Democrats may feel emboldened – next time they have total control – to add a couple reliably obsequious new states, mainly D.C. and Puerto Rico. Still, the first step for this day-dream is to coalesce into an actual movement with signatures and drafted legislation.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

Eloquently put. I don’t have much knowledge of US state politics (other than what i learn from this forum) but your contribution sounds intelligent.

Daniel P
Daniel P
1 year ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

What seems more likely is for an area to secede and join another state.
Western Oregon could join with Idaho and I think moves are already underway to make that happen. Western Washington could do the same. Eastern and northern CA could join with AZ or NV.
But it is going to require physical confrontation for it to happen. People with the power to control others do not give it up without a fight. It will take counties refusing to cooperate with the state. It will take county National Guard units and police units refusing to enforce or comply with their state counterparts. It will mean local cops and sheriffs departments being willing to confront state police.
Where it could get hairy is if the feds get involved and send in the FBI or the military to force compliance. I can think of half a dozen ways they could try to rationalize that.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Wrong. You’re watching too many “action” movies.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel P

You mean Eastern Oregon and Washington. East of the Cascades. I agree that physical confrontation will be required. It’s going to require cojones on the part of those who wish to leave.

Last edited 1 year ago by Betsy Arehart
laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Wrong. You’re watching too many “action” movies.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel P

You mean Eastern Oregon and Washington. East of the Cascades. I agree that physical confrontation will be required. It’s going to require cojones on the part of those who wish to leave.

Last edited 1 year ago by Betsy Arehart
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

Eloquently put. I don’t have much knowledge of US state politics (other than what i learn from this forum) but your contribution sounds intelligent.

Daniel P
Daniel P
1 year ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

What seems more likely is for an area to secede and join another state.
Western Oregon could join with Idaho and I think moves are already underway to make that happen. Western Washington could do the same. Eastern and northern CA could join with AZ or NV.
But it is going to require physical confrontation for it to happen. People with the power to control others do not give it up without a fight. It will take counties refusing to cooperate with the state. It will take county National Guard units and police units refusing to enforce or comply with their state counterparts. It will mean local cops and sheriffs departments being willing to confront state police.
Where it could get hairy is if the feds get involved and send in the FBI or the military to force compliance. I can think of half a dozen ways they could try to rationalize that.

Thor Albro
Thor Albro
1 year ago

To my knowledge no one has yet to actually put secession to the vote in CA, or Eastern Oregon or Eastern Washington. So it is impossible to know what legs such a movement might have, or what legal or political barriers would arise. There is also a fantasy about some areas joining Idaho, which would require Idaho’s approval.

Any new state or reordering of borders (Greater Idaho) would require consent from Congress, which brings it’s own perils: Democrats may feel emboldened – next time they have total control – to add a couple reliably obsequious new states, mainly D.C. and Puerto Rico. Still, the first step for this day-dream is to coalesce into an actual movement with signatures and drafted legislation.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

When I saw the headline, I thought this sounds good – the US, and the rest of the west, is better off without California. My hopes were dashed pretty quickly.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

When I saw the headline, I thought this sounds good – the US, and the rest of the west, is better off without California. My hopes were dashed pretty quickly.

Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
1 year ago

The correct term is Mexifornia. That is not a xenophobic viewpoint, it is an observable fact.
California might better be broken into thirds: the coastal Eliteafornia, ( or perhaps “Wokeifornia’ ) the central and mountain Conservatifornia, with a Palestinian-like enclave in the southern part of the state ( Mexifornia ) ceded back to Mexico and made up of over five million illegal immigrants. Los Angeles would be the capital of this rump state of Northern Mexico. ( Orange County would have to petition its way into the jurisdiction of one of the other two new states which would remain under U.S. sovereignty. ) NB the homeless population would remain, as it is now, concentrated in urban coastal areas. A wonderful social welfare opportunity for the elites in their new state.

Unless you live here in California, you have no idea how messed up this once-idyllic state has become. Dystopian. Home of every whacko, leftist, utopian policy in America.

Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
1 year ago

The correct term is Mexifornia. That is not a xenophobic viewpoint, it is an observable fact.
California might better be broken into thirds: the coastal Eliteafornia, ( or perhaps “Wokeifornia’ ) the central and mountain Conservatifornia, with a Palestinian-like enclave in the southern part of the state ( Mexifornia ) ceded back to Mexico and made up of over five million illegal immigrants. Los Angeles would be the capital of this rump state of Northern Mexico. ( Orange County would have to petition its way into the jurisdiction of one of the other two new states which would remain under U.S. sovereignty. ) NB the homeless population would remain, as it is now, concentrated in urban coastal areas. A wonderful social welfare opportunity for the elites in their new state.

Unless you live here in California, you have no idea how messed up this once-idyllic state has become. Dystopian. Home of every whacko, leftist, utopian policy in America.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

I live here in CA. This is a pipe dream and it always have been. Steps to “succession”:
1) Put an advisory measure on the ballot in several contiguous counties.
2) Obtain at least a majority vote but preferably much more.
3) Force elected representatives to actually implement the studies to break away from Sacramento.
4) Use those county supervisor districts as leverage to bring a bill before the state legislature to partition the state.
5) Get the governor to sign said measure.
6) Use legislative pressure to get Congressional approval passed through both chambers and signed by the President.
Whether the resulting state would be economically viable is debatable. That this process will never be accomplished in my lifetime (and likely ever) is not debatable.
The last time a state split (Virginia) occurred when the Civil War kept the Southern States out of Congress. It ain’t happening again, regardless of the number of State of Jefferson flags.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brian Villanueva
J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

That sounds like a realistic analysis. So what’s the way forward for the increasing schism between deep blue cities (not just in California) and everywhere else?
If you look at California, for example, the “blue state” is actually three big, blue blobs: SF bay area, LA, and San Diego (and, of course, the small state capital, Sacramento). Pretty much everywhere else is red. How can this massive, de facto partition persist without some sort of red rebellion?

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

This is playing out in Canada as well. British Columbia elects governments on the strength of the Greater Vancouver region – sometimes without a seat east of Whistler. The Federal Government in Canada is elected by Ontario and Quebec – mostly by their two big cities – Toronto and Montreal.

Ralph Wade
Ralph Wade
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Those four blobs account for about 26.5 million people out of a total population of about 39 million. Not all 26 million are hard core blue and not all of the rural folks are deep red. Since I was in high school in the 1960’s, there has been rumblings about dividing up the state and I’m sure that predated me. The rationale seems to evolve. When I was a kid it was because the southern part of the state took all the water from the north. In the north they wanted to form a breakaway state called Alta California. Kevin McCarthy, current Republican Speaker of the House is from a California Congressional District, as was previous House Speaker – Democrat Nancy Pelosi. It is easy to paint the state with a broad brush.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

the red/blue geography you mention applies in nearly every state in the union. That’s why talk of a second America civil war is so absurd.
The solution is federalism and subsidiarity all the way to the county level. Absent that, this cold war will continue. Even David French is starting to talk that way these days,

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

This is playing out in Canada as well. British Columbia elects governments on the strength of the Greater Vancouver region – sometimes without a seat east of Whistler. The Federal Government in Canada is elected by Ontario and Quebec – mostly by their two big cities – Toronto and Montreal.

Ralph Wade
Ralph Wade
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Those four blobs account for about 26.5 million people out of a total population of about 39 million. Not all 26 million are hard core blue and not all of the rural folks are deep red. Since I was in high school in the 1960’s, there has been rumblings about dividing up the state and I’m sure that predated me. The rationale seems to evolve. When I was a kid it was because the southern part of the state took all the water from the north. In the north they wanted to form a breakaway state called Alta California. Kevin McCarthy, current Republican Speaker of the House is from a California Congressional District, as was previous House Speaker – Democrat Nancy Pelosi. It is easy to paint the state with a broad brush.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

the red/blue geography you mention applies in nearly every state in the union. That’s why talk of a second America civil war is so absurd.
The solution is federalism and subsidiarity all the way to the county level. Absent that, this cold war will continue. Even David French is starting to talk that way these days,

Daniel P
Daniel P
1 year ago

Brian,
I cannot disagree with your analysis and if I had to put odd on it I would say that your take has a 98% probability of being true. But then HRC had a 95% chance too.

That said, times they be a changing in radical and unpredictable ways.

What is more likely is that CA continues to shed people and states like TX and FL, AZ and others continue to gain population. What is more likely is that places like LA and San Francisco will enter doom loops while places like Austin, Tampa and Charlotte and Raleigh thrive.

What is more likely is that businesses will continue to leave for other places with lower taxes, less regulation, cheaper energy and stronger policing.

What is more likely is that CA will continue to lose seats in the House and TX, FL and the Carolina’s gain seats.

What is more likely is that as the above happens, those left behind are going to face higher taxes to offset the losses, more fees and less services. Creating incentive for more people to leave.

Eventually, what is most likely to happen, is that CA will face a real financial collapse and substantial loss of influence to more conservative states. Housing prices will take a nose dive and property taxes with them, meaning local services and schools will be impacted. Then, when CA hits rock bottom, which is what will have to happen for them to change, they will desperately start looking for policies that will attract people and businesses back into the state. That will likely mean at some point a republican legislature and a republican governor or democrats that look like republicans. There will be massive reductions in regulation, a lowering of taxes, an emphasis on policing, likely cuts in pensions to state workers and a reduction in the state workforce. Certain cities will likely go into receivership, state or federal.

States like CA and NY, even MA and NJ are going to keep losing out to places like TN and FL. As that happens, they will double down on the things that are killing them until something breaks. Then, when they are desperate, when they have to choose between giving teachers raises or paying the pensions for retirees, when they are left with no alternatives, they will grudgingly and with resentment, start undoing all the things that intially drove people out. But that is a process of generations.

See, the problem stems from arrogance. Places like NY and CA thougtht they were so special and so unique that people would always come, that no matter how hard the state made life in taxes and regulation, that people would never leave for some place like Nashville. Well, it looks like a tipping point has been reached and I really do not think that CA or its state government has the stomach to do what is needed to reverse the tide and wont until things get desperate.
I left MA for FL and then the mid Atlantic states years ago and have no regrets at all. I cannot count the number of offers I have had to move to CA for work. I never give the recruiter the time to get past the move to CA before I say no. I’m not alone. Many of my neighbors are from NY, MA and the west coast. The one thing we tell new arrivals; Do NOT do here what you did there, its why you moved here.

Last edited 1 year ago by Daniel P
Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Adam Smith said, “there’s a great deal of ruin in a nation”, and the quote applies just as well to CA. It’s huge economically and geographically.
There certainly is a bottom, but I think we’re many decades away from it. The Latinos might save us if they really do turn against the Dems.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel P

The problem is, they DO do what they did there. Colorado is the absolute classic example. The lefties began leaving the smog, traffic and sprawl of both coasts in the 70s and CO is now solidly under Dem dominion.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Adam Smith said, “there’s a great deal of ruin in a nation”, and the quote applies just as well to CA. It’s huge economically and geographically.
There certainly is a bottom, but I think we’re many decades away from it. The Latinos might save us if they really do turn against the Dems.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel P

The problem is, they DO do what they did there. Colorado is the absolute classic example. The lefties began leaving the smog, traffic and sprawl of both coasts in the 70s and CO is now solidly under Dem dominion.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

That sounds like a realistic analysis. So what’s the way forward for the increasing schism between deep blue cities (not just in California) and everywhere else?
If you look at California, for example, the “blue state” is actually three big, blue blobs: SF bay area, LA, and San Diego (and, of course, the small state capital, Sacramento). Pretty much everywhere else is red. How can this massive, de facto partition persist without some sort of red rebellion?

Daniel P
Daniel P
1 year ago

Brian,
I cannot disagree with your analysis and if I had to put odd on it I would say that your take has a 98% probability of being true. But then HRC had a 95% chance too.

That said, times they be a changing in radical and unpredictable ways.

What is more likely is that CA continues to shed people and states like TX and FL, AZ and others continue to gain population. What is more likely is that places like LA and San Francisco will enter doom loops while places like Austin, Tampa and Charlotte and Raleigh thrive.

What is more likely is that businesses will continue to leave for other places with lower taxes, less regulation, cheaper energy and stronger policing.

What is more likely is that CA will continue to lose seats in the House and TX, FL and the Carolina’s gain seats.

What is more likely is that as the above happens, those left behind are going to face higher taxes to offset the losses, more fees and less services. Creating incentive for more people to leave.

Eventually, what is most likely to happen, is that CA will face a real financial collapse and substantial loss of influence to more conservative states. Housing prices will take a nose dive and property taxes with them, meaning local services and schools will be impacted. Then, when CA hits rock bottom, which is what will have to happen for them to change, they will desperately start looking for policies that will attract people and businesses back into the state. That will likely mean at some point a republican legislature and a republican governor or democrats that look like republicans. There will be massive reductions in regulation, a lowering of taxes, an emphasis on policing, likely cuts in pensions to state workers and a reduction in the state workforce. Certain cities will likely go into receivership, state or federal.

States like CA and NY, even MA and NJ are going to keep losing out to places like TN and FL. As that happens, they will double down on the things that are killing them until something breaks. Then, when they are desperate, when they have to choose between giving teachers raises or paying the pensions for retirees, when they are left with no alternatives, they will grudgingly and with resentment, start undoing all the things that intially drove people out. But that is a process of generations.

See, the problem stems from arrogance. Places like NY and CA thougtht they were so special and so unique that people would always come, that no matter how hard the state made life in taxes and regulation, that people would never leave for some place like Nashville. Well, it looks like a tipping point has been reached and I really do not think that CA or its state government has the stomach to do what is needed to reverse the tide and wont until things get desperate.
I left MA for FL and then the mid Atlantic states years ago and have no regrets at all. I cannot count the number of offers I have had to move to CA for work. I never give the recruiter the time to get past the move to CA before I say no. I’m not alone. Many of my neighbors are from NY, MA and the west coast. The one thing we tell new arrivals; Do NOT do here what you did there, its why you moved here.

Last edited 1 year ago by Daniel P
Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

I live here in CA. This is a pipe dream and it always have been. Steps to “succession”:
1) Put an advisory measure on the ballot in several contiguous counties.
2) Obtain at least a majority vote but preferably much more.
3) Force elected representatives to actually implement the studies to break away from Sacramento.
4) Use those county supervisor districts as leverage to bring a bill before the state legislature to partition the state.
5) Get the governor to sign said measure.
6) Use legislative pressure to get Congressional approval passed through both chambers and signed by the President.
Whether the resulting state would be economically viable is debatable. That this process will never be accomplished in my lifetime (and likely ever) is not debatable.
The last time a state split (Virginia) occurred when the Civil War kept the Southern States out of Congress. It ain’t happening again, regardless of the number of State of Jefferson flags.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brian Villanueva
AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

Some very eloquent comments about the administrative difficulties of splitting the State. But I wonder if these difficulties are only apparently difficult. A true Secession doesn’t necessarily need the agreement of both sides.
Still a difficult political change to achieve but if the Town wants the Country to leave and the Country wants the Town to leave then it might be comparatively easy to achieve, especially if the Republicans control the Federal Government.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

Some very eloquent comments about the administrative difficulties of splitting the State. But I wonder if these difficulties are only apparently difficult. A true Secession doesn’t necessarily need the agreement of both sides.
Still a difficult political change to achieve but if the Town wants the Country to leave and the Country wants the Town to leave then it might be comparatively easy to achieve, especially if the Republicans control the Federal Government.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

Wish we could have secession in South Africa. The Western Cape would love to divorce the rest.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

Wish we could have secession in South Africa. The Western Cape would love to divorce the rest.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 year ago

My understanding is that you can’t have breakaway “new” states. Too easy to game that, til each original State is represented by dozens of Senators, instead of the two per State agreed upon in the Constitution. Those Founding Fathers were pretty sharp!
But you can break away in order to join an existing State. That is, the Constitution doesn’t specifically forbid it. The Representatives from those breakaway Congressional Districts would go to the adoptive State but the number of Senators doesn’t change.
But I really wonder about DC and Puerto Rico. Could it be that a simple Act of Congress is all that’s needed to grant State-hood? And how did Virginia become Virginia and West Virginia?
Thankfully, the Good Lord hath provideth us with more than enough lawyers to kick this can up and down the road til after I’m long gone.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 year ago

My understanding is that you can’t have breakaway “new” states. Too easy to game that, til each original State is represented by dozens of Senators, instead of the two per State agreed upon in the Constitution. Those Founding Fathers were pretty sharp!
But you can break away in order to join an existing State. That is, the Constitution doesn’t specifically forbid it. The Representatives from those breakaway Congressional Districts would go to the adoptive State but the number of Senators doesn’t change.
But I really wonder about DC and Puerto Rico. Could it be that a simple Act of Congress is all that’s needed to grant State-hood? And how did Virginia become Virginia and West Virginia?
Thankfully, the Good Lord hath provideth us with more than enough lawyers to kick this can up and down the road til after I’m long gone.

Will K
Will K
1 year ago

The polarization of opinions in the USA is now extreme, and shows no sign of decreasing. So it’s a reasonable suggestion that one or more States should secede, to enable citizens with different opinions to move to a State to be governed as they wish to be.

Last edited 1 year ago by Will K
Will K
Will K
1 year ago

The polarization of opinions in the USA is now extreme, and shows no sign of decreasing. So it’s a reasonable suggestion that one or more States should secede, to enable citizens with different opinions to move to a State to be governed as they wish to be.

Last edited 1 year ago by Will K