Thursday, March 12, 2009

Movement To Downsize California Founders; Field Poll Shows Most Californians Want To Keep Their Creaky Multicultural Apparatus Intact

Because of the pronounced disparity of diverse constituencies and their sometimes passionate advocacy of mutually antagonistic causes, many seriously question how this diverse state, which if independent, would constitute one of the top 10 economies in the world, can possibly hold together. Some even classify it as "ungovernable". Many Californians migrate to Utah out of disgust, but then start advocating for the same laws in Utah that made California "ungovernable". And they allow their children to behave the same way in Utah as they did in California, which means more graffitti and gangs for the Beehive State.

One of the people who questions whether California is still governable in its present form is former California Assembly member Bill Maze. He has come up with the idea of splitting the state roughly along the lines of "those who raise chickens and those who just eat them". Maze proposes spinning off 13 coastal counties from Los Angeles to Marin into one state, while the remaining 45 counties would constitute a smaller but more homogenous state.

Maze puts forth his scheme on the Downsize California website. He believes the state has become ungovernable, because voters approved Proposition 2 in November 2008. This measure, perceived by Central Valley farming interests to be too impractical and restrictive, established new rules on the treatment of farm animals, particularly chickens. Beginning in 2015, farmers would be required to provide room for egg-laying hens, veal calves and pregnant sows to fully extend their limbs or wings, stand up, turn around and lie down. It would outlaw cages and crates that prevent those movements. The chief proponents included the Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, California Veterinary Medical Assn., United Farm Workers, Consumer Federation of America, Center for Food Safety, California Democratic Party, and California Democratic U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. Sixty-three percent of voters voted Yes on this measure; you can view a county breakdown map HERE. Maze believes that agriculturally-illiterate city slickers shouldn't dictate farm policies.

But although Maze's concern is economic, his proposed division of the state also reflects a sharp cultural divide as well. Most of the 13 coastal counties he proposes to amputate from the state also voted No on Proposition 8, which was a Yes vote for gay marriage. The division on Proposition 8, as portrayed on this map, was quite dramatic in some cases; coastal counties who voted as high as 60 percent No on Prop 8 are bordered by inland counties who voted as high as 60 percent or more Yes on Prop 8.

However, a new Field Poll published in the Sacramento Bee indicates that Maze's proposal has gained no traction. Field asked 761 Californians during the period February 20th through March 1st to weigh in on two proposed splits of the state of California; North-South, and East-West. A proposed North-South split, which actually has been promoted by others over the years, was opposed by 73 percent of respondents. Even less popular is a proposed East-West split; 82 percent of respondents opposed this idea. The full results, which include a quality-of-life poll, can be viewed HERE.

I'm not so sure that Bill Maze picked the best issue to launch his campaign. I'm a hard-right Chris Buttars conservative, and I interpret PETA as People Eating Tasty Animals. But when I read Proposition 2, I wonder what is so wrong with it? What's wrong with requiring that farm animals who live in permanent cages have enough room to spread their wings? Have you ever seen a commercial chicken coop? Life in a chicken coop for a chicken is like life for a human being imprisoned in an airplane seat. How would you like to spend 70 years wedged into an airplane seat? I don't think it's unreasonable to mandate some more humane conditions, and besides, the measure does gives farmers six years lead time to adjust.

Maze needs to pick a different issue to fuel his severance campaign. The cultural split between coastal and inland California has grown so pronounced that culture may be more promising. Or perhaps a natural geographical split between Northern and Southern California. Tehachapi Pass seems to be a natural boundary.

In the final analysis, this is an issue for Californians to resolve. But how well will their "creaky multicultural apparatus" hold together if the economy continues to melt down?

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