Thursday, July 17, 2014

“State of Jefferson” Backers Remain Optimistic, While 6-Way Partition of California Heads for 2016 Ballot

The mixed results in three northern-California county ballot proposals on forming a “State of Jefferson” have not discouraged proponents of the idea—nor have its low chances of success even if majorities could be rallied.  Meanwhile, a more bizarre and ambitious plan to subdivide California into six separate states (discussed recently in this blog) has now gathered enough signatures to be put to voters in a state referendum in 2016.

The “Six Californias” initiative is the brainchild of the Silicon Valley venture-capitalist and sitcom actor Tim Draper, an enthusiastic Bitcoin investor and all-around eccentric cocky billionaire, who wants to divide the Golden State into the separate states of Jefferson, North California, Central California, West California, South California (that idea has its own grassroots movement, as discussed in this blog), and a—knock on wood—libertarian utopia in the State of Silicon Valley.  This week, his allegedly bipartisan group of backers revealed that more than the required 807,615 signatures—out of a promised eventual total of 1.3 million—have been collected and delivered to the state legislature in Sacramento, which enables the partition plan to be put to voters on the 2016 state ballot.

This Draper is a bit of a mad man himself.
In a recent poll, 59% of Californians were against the idea, which means some public-relations work will be necessary between now and then—though that is smaller than the gap an aggressive Québécois sovereignty campaign was able to nearly close in the 1995 referendum on secession from Canada, which it lost by a whisker.

An early map of the proposed entity
The numbers look a little different, though, when you examine the far northern rural reaches of the state along the Oregon border, where in June of this year three counties held referenda on whether to join a future State of Jefferson (reviving a 1941 plan to create an—as it then would have been—49th state straddling the old California–Oregon line).  In last month’s vote, 56% of voters in Tehama County gave the 51st-state idea a thumbs-up, and that advisory (i.e. non-binding) measure result was bolstered on July 15th by Tehama’s board of supervisors voting 5-0 to back the idea in light of public opinion.

In two other northern counties which polled voters on the question in June, Del Norte and Siskiyou, the idea was defeated by “no” votes of 59% and 56%, respectively.  In Siskiyou, at least—which is the heart of the Jefferson movement—the final count probably belies a majority support for the idea: some voters were turned off by a more radical strain of Jeffersonian separatism which wanted to erect a libertarian-anarchist-style “Republic of Jefferson” with its own currency and judicial system.  The head of the Jefferson Republic Committee, Anthony Intiso, promises a new approach after the Siskiyou results, saying voter turnout could be key.  Opposition to the idea was strongest in the county’s southern half—data Intiso plans to use as the republicans regroup. “With better education,” Intiso says, “Measure C would have passed, I believe. Last time, we pulled the entire thing together in just six months. I think we did pretty good for that.”

Anthony Intiso, third from left, father of the “Republic of Jefferson” movement
Even some of the opposing voices in Tehama should give Jefferson proponents reason for hope.  A letter to a Tehama County newspaper by one Diana Thompson, a former county administrator now living in Red Bluff, Tehama’s county seat, warned direly the other day, “The result [of a full-on push for statehood] would not be a State of Jefferson, but a U.S. Government protectorate or territory, something between Samoa and Puerto Rico because Congress will never accept us as a state.  In effect, we will lose all representation and be governed by Congress like Alaska and Hawaii were before statehood, which took decades.  Both the Philippines and Puerto Rico have [sic] been waiting almost a century to become states, and as we all know, Congress takes forever, if it even does anything.”  In addition to apparently thinking the U.S. still owns the Philippines (it became independent in 1946) and that U.S. territories don’t have their own legislatures, Thompson, bless her heart, also seems to think that it would be constitutionally possible, through some occult legal process, for Tehama County to sever itself irreparably from California—but not the United States—without gaining any kind of new status.  (And just think: this is a sample from the minority of Tehama County residents who even read newspapers to begin with!)  If I were a Jefferson proponent, I would be thinking: this lady is somebody who, if she had the right Tea-Party-distorted factoids lobbed in her general direction, could be brought around to believing just about anything.  (You know, like Bernice Cressey, who wrote to the same local paper, the Red Bluff Daily News, to warn that “those who oppose the State of Jefferson are either stupid or just plain liars.  Liberals will do anything to get their agenda passed.  Look at the I.R.S., N.S.A., V.A. scandals, too many to mention.  We’re already dealing with Agenda 21, with Common Core brainwashing our kids.”  Etc.)  (You know, she’s beginning to make sense.  Come to think of it ... say, I’m not sure I trust the pointy-headed intellectuals who run that newspaper in the first place.  After all, doesn’t “red bluff” mean ... Communist lie?!)

One proposed shape of a State of Jefferson, with counties
that have held referenda or passed resolutions on the matter highlighted in red.
But Thompson is right about one thing: any candidate for statehood must be approved by the U.S. Congress, and something like the State of Jefferson, which would be solidly Republican, would never gain the necessary votes unless a solidly Democratic 52nd state—with two Democratic senators to balance out the two new Republican Jeffersonian senators in the nearly perfectly divided upper chamber—were admitted simultaneously.  And why would Congress bother?  Both parties are busy enough trying to shore up and maintain their precarious 50%-ish share of national power without introducing crazy new variables like new states.

The original movement began in 1941.  (As you can see from the dateline,
other political matters were about to crowd out 49th-state movements
just as the Jefferson push gained momentum.)
Multiply that degree of unlikelihood by six and you get something like the level of quixotic, hallucinatory self-delusion necessary to think that California could simply tic the box for six-way partition and then move inexorably toward just such a subdivision.  For one thing, why would Tim Draper’s borders be better than those which county-level referenda might generate (and, in Jefferson, are, after a fashion, generating)?  Can you just imagine the decades of wrangling, at county, state, and congressional levels, over which of the 58 current counties would belong to which of the six states?  Draper—who, in addition to managing astronomical sums of money, played Principal Schmoke on the Nickelodeon series The Naked Brothers Bandinsists that all that could be sorted out later.  He is optimistic that leaner, nimbler, more accountable smaller governments can be put in place, with the people bypassing the party “oligopoly” in the legislatures.  How he plans to keep the very body exclusively entrusted with creating new states—Congress—out of the process is unclear.  It would require some kind of revolution—which is much more the State (or Republic) of Jefferson’s style than Silicon Valley’s.  Watch this space.

The tie that unbinds: Tim Draper’s sartorial choice
on the day he announced the petition threshold had been reached.

[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  The book, which contains dozens of maps and over 500 flags, is now in the layout phase and should be on shelves, and available on Amazon, by early fall 2014.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even though you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook.]

Related: hear the author of this blog discuss the Cascadia independence movement in OregonWashington, and British Columbia in a recent interview for Seattle’s N.P.R. affiliate station KUOW-FM.  Click here to listen.

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