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.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest