Split Up All the Big States? Why Not Just Reform the Senate Instead?

There’s yet another movement to split California in half, and Eric Levitz says that sounds great. In fact, every big state should split itself up in order to create fairer representation for everyone in the Senate, which has become “one of the most genuinely tyrannical institutions of our government.”

Well, OK. But if that’s really the issue, wouldn’t it be easier to just change the apportionment of senators? That would fix the Senate too and it would require only one constitutional amendment, rather than a dozen states all petitioning to be broken up. How should we do it? Hmmm. How about every state gets between one and five senators depending on population? That makes it fairer, but not merely a duplicate of the House. Or maybe every state gets two senators, and then we add a hundred more that are apportioned by population? Or wait. Every state gets allocated senators by a formula: the cube root of population divided by 75.

I think you get the idea: not gonna happen. Like it or not, the current system gives small states a lot of power, and they aren’t going to allow anything to diminish that power. That includes splitting up states.

Still, at least this latest proposal splits California between coast and inland, which makes more sense than the usual moronic suggestions to split it north and south. On the other hand, New California is going to be a mighty poor state. They’ve tried to massage this by including Orange County and San Diego in their new inland state, but that’s pretty ridiculous. Both of these places may be relatively conservative, but neither one has any interest in being the piggy bank for all the farmers and pot growers in NewCa. If you assume that both would stay in Old California, here’s how things look:

Pretty dismal. New California is about as rich as Kentucky and Alabama. They’re going to miss a whole lot of amenities that they get right now thanks to the largesse of Hollywood and Silicon Valley.

POSTSCRIPT: On the other hand, NewCa would have all the water. So there’s that.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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