A coupla bright boys propose dividing the State of Texas into five parts. This is a great opportunity for a modern Caesar, Omnia Texania in quinque parte and so forth. This is also, according to the bright boys, a great opportunity for the modern Texans. It seems that when Congress let Texas into the Union Congress gave Texas blanket permission to split into five states anytime Texas desired. The old Texans were a bit slow to recognize this particular opportunity, true, but what an opportunity it is. Think of it. Ten Senators! Extra votes in the Electoral College! Five Lone Star states! We’re talking, well . . . it starts with a P and ends with Ower. We’re talking Power.
Back in the day the old Saints wanted their own over-sized Texas, or rather, Deseret.
Deseret would have taken in most of the unsettled areas of the Intermountain West—Arizona, Nevada, parts of Colorado and New Mexico—along with the then sparsely populated Los Angeles area. Even a more modest state, laid out along the lines of eventual Mormon settlement, would take in Utah, southern Idaho, southwest Wyoming, parts of southern Colorado and northeast New Mexico, most of eastern Arizona, and parts of Nevada. That’s one big state. We like to talk about it sometimes, because who doesn’t have a sneaking admiration for the grandiose?
Usually, the conversation goes around a little and then wiser heads prevail. Why the current system is almost made to order, the wiser heads say. Reflect a little. We get our own state in which to do our Mormon thing, plus we get to help elect the senators in Idaho and Nevada and Arizona and Colorado sometimes. Our own state! And political power! Yippee! Wiser heads and a coupla bright boys have a lot in common.
But not so Lee-Corso fast. Having our own state means something, surely, but the locus of laws and institution these days isn’t the state. Most important matters are decided nationally. And nationally, the difference between two senators and two senators with part shares in several more means little compared to the whole hundred, who themselves must share power with the President and the House and the Supreme Court and the administrative agencies. All this ‘power’ we’re getting rapidly becomes dilute. We’d be much better off if having a state meant something. We could give more than lip service to the belief that the Gospel reaches into every sphere of life and every kind of activity, even governance and politics. We could expect revelations from God and inspirations to men, because we would need them.
But we don’t have states like that because we don’t have a robust federalism like that. Blame the 17th Amendment, which is both cause and effect. Blame also the decline in the loyalty and attachment of the citizenry to the state, which is also both cause and effect. Federalism will always dwindle and fail in practice if—in every contest between state and national power—the myths, the memories, and the self-identification are all on the side of the nation. States become administrative units. And federalism has already failed its purpose if the states aren’t serving as counterweights and balances to the national government in the hearts and minds of the citizens. Federalism, which means that having-our-own-state would actually mean something, requires that people care about their states.
The problem is that these days our country is grown too homogenous for states to really attract local loyalties. What citizen going from South Bend, Indiana, to Columbus, Ohio, feels that things have changed? Or Seattle to Portland or Boise to Laramie? We have too much in common now.
Except the Texans. If Texas were split into the five states of T and E and X and A and S, perhaps the Essers wouldn’t see themselves as all that different from the X-men, but lump them all together and the difference from the rest of the country becomes apparent. That’s why Texans still have state pride and state loyalty. Student-age Texans are the one with the Lone Star flag in their dorm room. That’s why Texans have their own identity. Things are big out here. The other big state, California, is a little the same way. People there are conscious that they’re Californians and, going elsewhere, can often be recognized as such. California, like Texas, means something. The country is homogenous enough that most differences are only regional, but states like California or Texas are a region all to themselves.
So I suggest that if we had more states like California or Texas we’d have more federalism. States would mean more to people and therefore have more power, and thus we’d have our chance to make a truly Mormon way of life. So cheer for golden California, pray God to bless Texas, and shed a tear for Deseret.