It’s a longstanding and wacky belief: If one is really, really good at one thing, one will be really, really good at something else. In fact, anything else. You’re an expert at ice fishing? How’s that career in brain surgery working out?
The latest iteration comes from Tim Draper, who venture-capitalized his way into Silicon Valley billions, then looked around, decided he liked politics and pronounced the Golden State ungovernable. Too big, with 163,696 square miles; too populous, with almost 38 million people; too many differing, competing, interests; a mess, really. So, for amusement, let’s divide it into six states — “Six Californias.” Could be a theme park, eh?
In case you were paying attention to the real world, you might not know that Draper is financing a November ballot initiative that would do the split-up. He has to come up with 807,615 signatures by July 18 to get it onto the November 4 ballot. Earlier, Draper said it was “close.” Then he said it could go either way. Secretary of State Debra Bowen says last Friday was kind of a deadline, however, to give counties sufficient time to check signatures. Draper seems philosophical about it all — suggesting that if Six Californias doesn’t make it this November, there’s always November of 2016. Oh swell.
The overweening self-confidence of some Silicon Valley billionaires is not always grounded in reality. Exhibit A is Governor Meg Whitman. But Draper’s six states fantasy is way bigger than any piffling desire to be governor. He’s pushing the biggest boundary re-do since the Mexican-American War. (High-tech billionaires don’t tinker.)
For the record, Draper’s six new states would be these: Jefferson (up by the Oregon line); North California; Silicon Valley (very rich); Central California (very poor); West California, and South California.
It’s not going to happen. Even if it were to get onto the ballot, the Legislature would have to approve. It wouldn’t.
Then Congress would have to approve. It wouldn’t.
None of this has to do with good or bad public policy. The Democrats wouldn’t want to take a chance on additional Republican U.S. senators from places such as Jefferson, Central California or South California. And Republicans would be nervous about additional Democrats entering the Senate from Silicon Valley and West California.
God only knows how many members of the House from each party the new states would produce from the new setup.
And any six-state legislation would have to be signed by the president, whoever he or she might be. Of course, there’d probably be a few politicians from, say Jefferson, who’d see an opportunity to jump into the big leagues without having to deal with those pesky liberal multitudes in the big coastal cities.
Draper’s www.sixcalifornias.info website seems to have a wistful desire to maintain some sort of camaraderie among the new states. It envisions “A future where regions we live in are able to raise each other up collectively.” Sure. Raise each other up collectively right after going their separate ways following the most furious and spectacular state political battle of the past 164 years. They’d all get together and reminisce about old times. Need more water, South California? North California or Jefferson would be glad to ship you some, no problem. One for all, and all for one.
Draper is merely the latest in a series of Silicon Valley types who apparently think that if they can come up with a terrific app, they can do anything. One of them. not too long ago, talked about a floating state/colony off the California coast. Then there’s the big Google barge that floated around on San Francisco Bay for a while before going to Stockton (Central California). More money than you know what to do with, perhaps combined with boredom, seems to produces bizarre results.
Look, anyone who’s been paying attention knows that California is diverse. It has been home to both Richard Nixon and Groucho Marx, for Pete’s sake. It has surfers and farmers and movie stars and, yes, Silicon Valley billionaires. That’s one of the things making our state one of the marvels of the age.
And if, in addition to Draper’s Folly, you want more proof of why the “If you’re good at this, you’ll be good at that” idea doesn’t work, take a look at the worst president of modern times. Dubya: decent portrait painter; lousy Leader of the Free World.
Bottom line: It’s fine to think outside the box, if you’re actually thinking.
Calbuzz Contributor Chuck McFadden covered politics for The Associated Press in Sacramento. He is author of “Trailblazer: A Biography of Jerry Brown.”