Silicon Valley zillionaires feel entitled. They like to get everything their way. They order off the menu. Steve Jobs, known for parking in handicapped spaces, was said to have prompted someone to leave a note on his windshield riffing on Apple's famous advertising slogan: "Park different." So it was bound to be just a matter of time — a short time — before they began playing politics, and doing it in their usual brash, short-sighted way.
Venture capitalist Timothy Draper came by some of his money the old-fashioned way: His father made a bunch of smart investments that paid off. Like most members of the American nobility, being born at mile 25½ in the marathon of life has convinced Draper that he knows best how to cure everything that ails California:
Draper has submitted the first batch of what he says will be 1.3 million signatures to state election officials, which, allowing for disqualified signatures, will probably be enough to meet the 807,615 signatures required to place his voter initiative — the Chinese Communist Party would call his idea "splittism" — on the ballot in November 2016.
California, Draper says, is too big to not fail. With six smaller states governed from six new capitals, he argues, these state governments will be closer to the people — geographically, anyway.
Personally, I don't see the logic. If geographic proximity led legislatures to take better care of constituents, wouldn't the city governments of state capitals be cleaner, safer and less corrupt than cities and towns farther away from legislators' offices? From Sacramento to Austin to Harrisburg to Albany, however, there is no evidence of that.
Patrick McGreevy writes in The Times:
“A Field Poll in February found that 59% of California voters oppose a breakup of the state, [Steve] Maviglio noted, and the strategist predicted the business community and Democratic and Republican leaders will campaign against it. ‘There is no groundswell of support for this,’ said Maviglio. California, he said, ‘is going to be a laughing stock on [TV comedy shows, including] Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman because of this idea. For anyone considering investment in our state, this raises a question of uncertainty.’
“Even if voters approve the ballot measure, breaking up California would have to win approval of Congress, which he said is doubtful. ‘Is Congress going to give California 10 more senators?’ Maviglio asked.”
The Republican Congress? Give Democratic California 10 more senators? Probably not.
So this is a perfect initiative -- except for its dubious constitutionality, political unpopularity and almost certain unfeasibility. Which makes me wonder: Who are the 1.3 million Californians who signed Draper's petitions? Sure, I know that voting to put something on the ballot isn’t the same thing as turning up to vote and then supporting a measure. Still, some ideas are so dumb we shouldn't have to waste our time discussing them in the first place — and this one clearly qualifies.
Which has me thinking: maybe these people need a place all to themselves.
A dumb place.