The plan for dividing California into three states – dubbed Cal 3 by its proponents – qualified for the November general election this week. Reaction from the political establishment of both major parties generally ranged from I don’t think so to yawn. One exception was state senator Joel Anderson (R – San Diego County) who, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, said he will vote for it and called it “a barometer of the potential unhappiness of the state”.
On the other hand, lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom, who is the odds on favorite to win the governorship on the same ballot scorched the idea, while simultaneously downplaying it, according to the Los Angeles Times…
“California’s success is being a cohesive state, particularly at a time of Trump and Trumpism,” Newsom said. “We’re now the fifth largest economy in the world. Why would we cede that to splitting the state up into three?”
Newsom said the breakup proposal would lead to “litigation, consternation, north versus south, all kinds of constitutional issues,” but he added he is not spending a lot of time dwelling on the proposal.
So far, all his opponent, republican John Cox, has offered is “no comment”.
Labelling it a protest vote or dismissing it as a time consuming distraction are equally wrong. I haven’t made up my mind whether to vote yes or no on it, but I do think it’s an opportunity for Californians to have an adult discussion about how our state is run, and who really runs it.
A spokeswoman for the Cal 3 campaign, Peggy Grande, framed the core question in a press release “the reality is that for an overmatched, overstretched and overwrought state government structure, [California] is too big to succeed”. Her premise is correct: California’s government is increasingly dysfunctional, at both the political and administrative level.
Cal 3’s conclusion, that the only solution is breaking up the state, is eminently debatable, though. Candidates for state offices should address the issue and offer their own solutions, not dismiss the initiative or turn it into an equally meaningless protest.
That might be too much to hope for.