A few decades ago there was a mildly entertaining movie, “California Split,” a Robert Altman film starring Elliott Gould and George Segal. It focused on two California gamblers down on their luck who go all in on a search for the lucky streak that will make them rich.
You can rent the movie and see for yourself what happens, but it’s safe to say most gambling binges do not end well.
But that premise did not prevent a newly-formed political group from proposing yet another division of California. This one doesn’t involve bifurcating the state north and south, but rather east and west.
The group has devised its own Declaration of Independence from the real California, as it is now constituted, and what it would entail is leaving highly-populated coastal regions — including the one we live in here — and let that remain “California,” while everything east of the coast would be “New California.”
The reason for this latest scheme is that the group believes what is now California is “ungovernable.”
We can’t argue with that. California has, essentially, been ungovernable for years. Many good and bad people have tried, and all have failed badly.
On the other hand, it might be successfully argued that all of this nation is ungovernable — but that hasn’t stopped leaders of both major political parties from trying to govern.
What the new group seems most concerned about is that Democrats, many of them of a liberal bent, have become the state’s ruling party, which the split-California group calls tyrannical. They also complain about high taxes, over-regulation and other basic necessities of ungovernable-ness.
We are fairly sure these folks are quite sincere, believing they can split the state because Virginia did it years ago, thus West Virginia.
It’s a long shot at best, one that the characters in Altman’s cinematic ode to chronic gamblers would take at the drop of a hat.
It won’t work. For one thing, those of us living in Santa Barbara County for any length of time know the truth about jurisdictional-split efforts.
Several years ago, North County movers and shakers, weary of being told what to do and how to act by South Coast liberals, proposed to split the county, creating a Santa Barbara County down the coast, and a Mission County up here.
The proposal had some serious support in North County — until folks started to crunch the numbers. The new county would have begun life in a fiscal hole, and likely would have remained in the hole until declaring bankruptcy. It was less about politics and more about having enough of a revenue stream to stay afloat.
The New California notion has the same sort of problem. Once you extricate coastal metro areas from the equation, the rest of the state doesn’t produce nearly enough revenue to sustain a separate government, at least not without laying on some serious taxes and fees.
Another of about 200 total split proposals over the years was tried in 2014, but never got enough signatures to make a statewide ballot.
The other obstacle for the new proposal is that, although such a division is possible according to the U.S. Constitution, that document also requires the approval of Congress. As weird as members of Congress sometimes behave, we just don’t see the New California idea going anywhere.
For one thing, if California bifurcated, folks on the East Coast would have the target of their “Left Coast” ire significantly reduced.
Breaking up is hard to do, in love and in politics.