What Is New California? Rural Counties Want Independence From 'Tyrannical Government'

Robert Paul Preston dreams of splitting California in two to create the nation's sixth-largest state, topping New York in population. It would be called New California, and it wouldn't be liberal-friendly.

Preston, a Yuba City native, in Northern California, wants to create the nation's 51st state because he believes the rural counties of California are underrepresented by the Legislature in a fundamentally unfixable way. His proposed state would give greater representation to California's rural areas, as opposed to the urban and more left-wing coast that Preston said represents bonds of tyranny.

The idea is virtually guaranteed to fail. All citizen-led efforts for a state to split or secede from the United States have fallen short in modern U.S. history. Despite being mostly symbolic, Preston said, the idea is gaining popularity among Californians who are critical of the state's Democratic leadership. California is a Democratic stronghold, with the party holding 80 of the state's 120 legislative seats.

"It's really amazing that it doesn't matter if you're liberal or conservative, or whatever. If you're Californian, everyone is concerned about the nature of the state," Preston told Newsweek. "It seems to really be going across party lines at this point. You would think it might be a little more conservative on the New California side and liberal on the other, but we get calls from Los Angeles County and Sacramento."

According to a statement from the New California movement, red counties represent those that are involved in the effort to break away as a new state. Yellow would be considered "Old California" under the proposal, and blue counties are not involved. Facebook/New California State CCR

Preston said Californians supportive of the initiative believe the state's governing system is "entirely broken," in part because the Republican Party is almost "entirely irrelevant in California." He is organizing county groups to force the Legislature to recognize the predominately rural region through its own economy, school system and constitution.

The New California proposal includes a statement that people who are "suffering the long train of abuses and usurpations at the hands of a tyrannical government" have the right to make a new government, but Preston said the formation effort will remain civil.

"We just gave the warning notice that this is our intention: to be independent," he said. "It doesn't mean there's going to be some sort of revolution in the streets. That isn't the way we work it in the United States or in California. We will be working as the Constitution says."

Preston predicts that New California could become a state within 18 months, but history is not on his side. There have been multiple efforts for portions of the state, or the entire state, to gain independence. In August, the "Calexit" movement pushed for a 2018 ballot initiative to break the state away from the rest of America. Four similar initiatives are in play in 2018, but Preston believes his effort will be successful because it follows the model outlined in the U.S. Constitution.

The example the New California founders cite is West Virginia, which broke away from the Confederate state of Virginia during the Civil War in 1861. It was granted statehood by Congress in 1863. For New California to exist, it would need Congress to approve the breakup of the existing state.

Texas could also divide itself into multiple states, and it often sees proposals to do so, but they have always failed. Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, voted in June to become the 51st American state but lacked the voter turnout necessary to advance the proposal.