Voters in two California counties, Del Norte and Tehama, will soon be deciding on whether to pursue a controversial, unlikely, and long-sought dream: seceding from Northern California and becoming the 51st state, apparently called Jefferson. Tuesday will bring the vote on Measure A, an advisory question which, if passed, would urge their supervisors to join with other counties in the quest for Jefferson. The measure already has some support — elected officer-holders from Siskiyou County, Glenn County, Yuba County and Modoc County have already voted in approval of the effort.
But this is nothing new for the northernmost corners of California, where talk of forming Jefferson has been around for over 70 years. It was all the way back in 1941 when the idea was first proposed, and it's risen intermittently ever since, buoyed by a largely conservative populace isolated near the Oregon border, at vicious odds with the rest of the state's pervasive liberalism.
Sadly for that cabal of California conservatism, secession is clearly not going to happen. But it's an interesting thing to think about, not just in historical terms — we did fight a civil war about this, after all — but in practical terms. What would actually happen if Jefferson became state number 51? Here are three things that would change...
1. California Will Become More Liberal
As it stands now, the Democratic Party has a virtual stranglehold on control of state politics, thanks to, among other things, a woefully-atrophied California Republican Party. Unfortunately for those hoping for a Golden State renaissance for the GOP, if Jefferson is established, that job will get quite a bit harder.
In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won a majority of votes in 27 of California's 58 counties, but got beaten badly statewide by a margin of 13 percent. If you took away the four counties which have already voiced approval for Jefferson, however, as well as the two currently mulling the issue, that's just 21 Romney-voting counties left.
Of course, the Jefferson counties aren't high-population zones — quite the contrary, the staggering concentration of voters in liberal enclaves San Francisco and Los Angeles all but assures those voters would've be drowned out regardless. But for Republicanism in California, the uphill climb is bad enough as it is. Losing six of the counties sympathetic to their cause is moving in the wrong direction, and their margin for error is already at zero.
2. The Senate Will Become More Conservative
Owing to the differing rules of representation between the U.S. House and Senate, whatever angst the California GOP might have about losing a bastion of support would surely be met with a stern reply from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: suck it up.
That's because every state, regardless of its population, is afforded two seats in the Senate. In the House, representation varies based on state populations, but in the Senate, the tiny, fledgling state of Jefferson would have every bit as much voting power as the behemoth of a state it just left. The Senate would suddenly have 102 seats instead of 100, and the two new ones would almost assuredly stay deep-red, making a majority — let alone a filibuster-diffusing supermajority — that much harder to find.
3. You'd Need a State Flag, a State Motto, a 51st Star on the Flag...
Luckily for the logistics of it all, some of this planning has already been done, the spoils of some Californians' decades-long love affair with this idea. Pictured above is the flag of Jefferson, bearing twin crosses representing its counties' departures both from California, and parts of Oregon.
There's no proposed state motto on offer just yet. Maybe the motto inscribed on the seal of the state's namesake, Thomas Jefferson, would suffice: "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God." Yeah, that does sound pretty appropriate for a secessionist state motto, but it's still a little unsettling.
As for the U.S. Flag, the aesthetic change would impact all Americans, not just those tucked away in Yuba County. So, how best to fit in the 51st star? Luckily, there are a few possibilities out there, devised in case Puerto Rico achieves statehood.