Two leaders of the successful referendum to remove Britain from the European Union were recently in California, where they said favorable things about the newest version of a plan to split the state in pieces. As Arron Banks told a British newspaper: “It’s the world’s sixth largest economy, and it’s very badly run.” He isn’t the only person to believe that a breakup may be the best way to solve California’s intractable problems.

Some news reports about the Yes California independence campaign used the term “Calexit,” which makes for good headlines because it sounds like “Brexit,” but it’s confusing. Some left-leaning activists indeed are pushing a far-fetched “Calexit” idea to create a new California nation, something that has gained publicity after Donald Trump’s victory shocked Democratic-dominant California. This Yes California campaign has a ballpark-zero chance of gaining traction. It’s mostly about venting.

While creating a new nation would tear the United States asunder, redrawing state boundaries is nowhere near as unthinkable—or as dangerous—as some suggest.

“We should explore creating more states so we have a democracy that’s closer to the people,” said Scott Baugh, a former Republican assemblyman who met with Banks and Nigel Farage when they were in Orange County to receive an award. California has nearly 40 million people and is growing. At what point is the population too large for a single state, he wondered in a recent interview. That’s a question Californians have been asking since the early days of the state’s existence.

When a motley crew of American settlers, native-born “Californios” and European immigrants assembled in Monterey in 1849 for a constitutional convention, there was wide disagreement about where to put the eastern boundary for the proposed state of California. Some wanted an enormous state that would have encompassed a lot of modern-day Utah.

Since California achieved statehood in 1850, residents have floated dozens of plans to break it up. A proposed 2016 measure to carve it into six states, which did not make it onto the ballot, was initiated by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Tim Draper, who also is behind the effort that Banks and Farage recommended. News reports suggest his latest plan is largely to split the state east to west, but Mr. Draper told me his idea has no specific boundaries yet.

“We are doing deep research on everything from infrastructure to higher education to safety to water to the electric grid to politics to income levels to health care,” Mr. Draper said.

I’ve flown the State of Jefferson flag at my little ranch, a reminder of a continuing partition movement dating to World War II. Residents of California’s northern counties and Oregon’s southern counties complain that their tiny populations’ concerns get short shrift here in Sacramento and in Salem, Oregon. It’s now mainly a California movement to create one separate state in the far north. Some Jefferson backers say it’s basically a cry for help from a region suffering joblessness and an eroding tax base.

As an example, a group of elected sheriffs met in Yreka, California, a few years ago, where they vowed to defy rules limiting public access within publicly owned lands. It was an astounding act of frustration at federal and state land-use policies that didn’t consider the concerns of local residents. But their meeting never gained attention in either state capital. These rural areas in the “north state” have watched their timber, fishing and mining industries dry up, and many officials in that region blame environmental policies that are drafted with dense urban areas in mind.

Yreka is the county seat of Siskiyou, which is physically larger than Los Angeles County, but its population of 44,000 is dwarfed by the latter’s 10 million residents. How do residents of a small-population county get their voices heard in a state where one of 58 counties is more populous than 41 other states? For additional perspective, San Bernardino County is larger geographically than New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

And it’s not just a problem in California’s desolate regions. Even Democratic officials in the blue-collar San Joaquin Valley, a four-million-population region where oil-drilling and agriculture are major industries, are often at odds with their party’s priorities. Hard-pressed industrial cities in California such as Fresno and Bakersfield are worlds away from Santa Barbara and Napa Valley. Residents of Orange, San Diego and Riverside counties are often frustrated by the outsize influence of nearby Los Angeles.

Like many Californians, I haven’t embraced any particular proposal, but there’s no reason current boundaries can’t be adjusted to meet the needs of a changing population. Residents of Chico could still visit San Francisco on the weekend, just as I can now travel to Reno, Nevada, to play the slots. But a partitioned California—or Texas or Florida, for that matter—could improve millions of people’s chances at self-government. It would also make sense on a federal level, given that nearly 40 million Californians are represented by two senators — the same number that represent Wyoming, which has fewer than 600,000 residents.

Some readers may scoff at this seemingly pie-in-the-sky notion, but state boundaries have long been fluid and even illogical. People also thought Brexit was an impossible idea. But state boundaries aren’t sacrosanct. Maybe it’s time to reduce political division by adjusting the political lines.

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