July 4, 2017

ANOTHER ARGUMENT FOR REVISITING BAKER V. CARR AND REYNOLDS V. SIMS: California’s Far North Deplores ‘Tyranny’ of the Urban Majority.

From Hollywood to Silicon Valley, California projects an image as an economically thriving, politically liberal, sun-kissed El Dorado. It is a multiethnic experiment with a rising population, where the percentage of whites has fallen to 38 percent.

California’s Great Red North is the opposite, a vast, rural, mountainous tract of pine forests with a political ethos that bears more resemblance to Texas than to Los Angeles. Two-thirds of the north is white, the population is shrinking and the region struggles economically, with median household incomes at $45,000, less than half that of San Francisco.

Jim Cook, former supervisor of Siskiyou County, which includes cattle ranches and the majestic slopes of Mount Shasta, calls it “the forgotten part of California.”

In the same state that is developing self-driving cars, there’s the rugged landscape of Trinity County, where a large share of residents heat their homes with wood, plaques commemorate stagecoach routes and the county seat, Weaverville, is an old gold-mining town with a lone blinking stop-and-go traffic light.

The residents of this region argue that their political voice is drowned out in a system that has only one state senator for every million residents.

This sentiment resonates in other traditionally conservative parts of California, including large swaths of the Central Valley, which runs down the state, and it mirrors red and blue tensions felt in areas across the country. But perhaps nowhere else in California is the alienation felt more keenly than in the far north, an arresting panorama of fields filled with wildflowers and depopulated one-street towns that have never recovered from the gold rush.

“People up here for a very long time have felt a sense that we don’t matter,” said James Gallagher, a state assemblyman for the Third District, which is a shorter drive from the forests of Mount Hood in Oregon than from the beaches of San Diego. “We run this state like it’s one size fits all. You can’t do that.”

Well, you can. But you shouldn’t. Plus, an Independence Day angle:

Residents here have long backed a different proposal for a separate state, one that would be carved out of Northern California and the southern reaches of Oregon. Flags of the so-called State of Jefferson, which was first proposed in the 19th century, fly on farms and ranches around the region.

I think that Congress has the power to reform state legislatures directly, under its Guarantee power. In fact, you wouldn’t even have to change the case law. While the courts stepped in to remedy one kind of unfairness with Baker and Reynolds, Congress can step in on its own where necessary to guarantee a “republican form of government.” And unresponsive rule by far-away urbanites with different lifestyles is precisely what our Framers rebelled against, and thus can’t qualify as the kind of state government the Framers intended.

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