Several commentators, in response to the news that the District of Columbia may finally be on the verge of winning full voting representation in the House, are clamoring for more--two votes in the Senate. The idea that the taxpaying citizens of Washington deserve equal representation in both houses of Congress seems reasonable enough, but, of course, any proposal whose net effect would be to hand Democrats two new votes in the Senate is a non-starter. Even the proposal to give DC a vote in the House would have gone nowhere if not for the agreement to add a Republican seat in Utah to make it party-neutral. What's needed, clearly, is for some heavily Republican region to apply for statehood. It could then enter the union along with the overwhelmingly Democratic non-governmental part of Washington, much as Maine and Missouri did in 1820.
Well, what a coincidence! I noted last week, in the context of California's latest budget debacle, that the conservative interior counties of the Golden State want nothing to do with their liberal, urban, coastal fellow statesmen. I wasn't kidding: It turns out that Bill Maze, a former Republican assemblyman from the San Joaquin Valley, is pushing a plan to split 13 heavily Democratic coastal counties, from Los Angeles in the south to Marin in the north, off from the rest of California, which would then have a strong Republican bent. The movement even has a website, www.downsizeca.org. Splitting California is an idea that recurs periodically, but to my knowledge this is the first time anyone has seriously proposed dividing it on an east–west basis, as opposed to north–south.
Granted, Maze's plan is a dead-on-arrival harebrained scheme with any number of obvious problems. The "coastal" state would have no water; the "interior" state, encompassing everything from San Diego suburbanites to Central Valley farmers to Humboldt County potheads, would be no more coherent a geographical or political entity than the old California. And, given current political conditions, it would cost Democrats around 20 votes in the Electoral College. A constitutional convention, an idea quickly picking up steam and that Arnold Schwarzenegger says he loves, is a much better idea. But, if the good people of the District want their say in the Senate, teaming up with East California might be their best bet.