After seeing the idea kicked around in this Althouse thread, thought I'd attack the idea with an illustrated map. Above is a map of a five state solution for dividing up California. It respects current county boundaries, and I think it does a good job of acknowledging the demographic similarities of each region. The maroon lines are my proposed new state boundaries, with the new names of each state floating near them.
California is by far the largest state, yet our influence nationally is marginalized by that size. Division of the state would multiply our collective influence.
A breakdown of each of the five states (in order of new population, smallest to largest, based on this chart of 2006 estimates):
Lower Cascadia, State Capital Sacramento, postal code LC, current population of the 22 counties included 3,287,069 with a plurality of those people (1,385,607) in Sacramento county. It would be the smallest of the new states in population. This mountainous heavily forested state would be much more similar to its Mountain West neighbors if separated from the rest of California. It'd be somewhere half way between Oregon and Idaho demographically and politically. In the new 54 state United States (state pop numbers via this wiki page) would slot in between Connecticut (3,504,809) and Iowa (2,982,085) as the 34th most populous state. As far as national politics goes, this could be a purple state, as the rural population about balances the urban population and its (projected) 7 electoral votes would be fought over.
Hill and Dale, State Capital Merced, postal code HD, current population of the 16 counties included 3,715,757 mostly concentrated in the agriculturally rich San Joaquin Valley. This state would be dominated by agro-business and agro-business concerns. Hill and Dale (the name reference to the mountains of the eastern and coastal sections of this state, and the valley in the center) would have many of the natural wonders that have made California famous, so conservation and attracting tourism would also be major concerns. In terms of the 54 states, it would be between Kentucky (4,206,074) and Oregon (3,700,758) and rank 30th. Politically it would have more in common with the farm belt states in the midwest than it does with its neighboring former California states, but with a more hispanic twist. Most likely a solidly 'blue' state, but a moderate Republican could put this state in play. With 7 electoral votes it would be another potential battleground state in close elections.
Groovy, State Capital San Francisco, postal code GR, this would be a ring of 10 counties surrounding the Bay Area totalling 7,379,635 in population. This would be the 'fruit and nut' central (hence the name "Groovy"), but it would also be home to the Silicon Valley. As a separate state this would become a perfect test bed for every whacked out progressive idea they could come up with. Let them screw up that geographically small, but fairly substantial numbers-wise area first before solving the problems for the rest of the country. It fits in between Virginia (7,642,884) and Massachusetts (6,437,193) and would rank 15th in the new 54 state scheme. About as solidly blue as a state could be. This would be a permanent 13 electoral votes for the Dems (unless some more 'progressive' party comes around challenging the Dems nationally).
Reagan, State Capital Riverside, postal code RE, this would be five large counties, totalling 10,250,900 people, comprised of the Inland Empire, Orange County and San Diego (+ Imperial). It would be the most conservative of the new states (hence the name Reagan, and if any other president deserves a state named after him other than Washington, it would be Reagan). It would have large military bases, and would be diverse ethnically, topographically, and economically. Riverside is more centrally located which is why it would make a good capital, and besides I attended college there. It fits between Ohio (11,478,006) and Michigan (10,095,643), giving it a rank of 9th in the new 54 state union, but the area is growing rapidly, so by 2030 it would likely leap frog Ohio, Pennyslvania and Illinois and rank 5th with a population between 13 to 15M. Most likely a solidly red state, similar to Nevada, Utah or Arizona in temperament. Not impossible for a Dem to win here, but it would take a special Dem to win this state's 18 electors and a particularly bad GOP candidate to lose them.
Lotus Land, State Capital Santa Barbara, postal code LL, this would be Los Angeles, plus four other counties with the bad luck of being thrown together with that behemoth, totalling 12,527,654 people. It would be the heart of the entertainment world, one of the powerhouses on the Pacific Rim, with a major world port, a major world airport, and be the financial capital of the Western United States (but still devoid of even a single NFL team). Santa Barbara is a beautiful town, with many great municipal buildings as a county seat already, so it wouldn't be that hard to picture it as a quaint, but bustling State Capital of a major state. The political clout of this new entity would not be dilluted, most likely it would be strengthened by this division. It fits between Illinois (12,831,970) and Pennsylvania (12,440,621) and would be already the 5th most populous state all on its own, but would most likely pass Illinois by the end of this decade and sit alone only behind Texas, New York and Florida in terms of population. By 2030 Reagan and Lotus Land would be neck and neck as Reagan is growing much faster than Lotus Land, making for some interesting local rivalries. Home to 21 electoral votes, this would be fairly solidly 'blue' and would be a major source of money for the national party. This state wouldn't be as 'blue' as Groovy, but it'd only consider GOP candidates in the Schwarzenegger and Giuliani mold.
I think this is a pretty good solution (the names may a bit jokey, but fitting), one that won't ever happen, one that has little support, but the idea of California being divied up into smaller parts does get kicked around from time to time, so might as well put some thought into what the outcome might look like. Currently California gets 55 electors and 2 Senators, these new states should get either 65 or 66 electors and 10 Senators (I added one, based on a bonus congressional district for Reagan). 66 looks a lot better than 55 (but the overall number of electors would also increase by 8 with the addition of 8 new Senators).
UPDATE: Responding to good suggestions added here and at Althouse (much thanks go to Prof. Althouse for linking this directly in a post), here's a SIX STATE SOLUTION.
Renamed all the States after famous
Jefferson has remained unchanged (other than the name, which was changed to reflect the Jefferson State movement local to that region).
Hill and Dale becomes Muir in honor of the conservationist who was instrumental in establishing the many National Parks within this proposed state. Also Muir absorbs Kern county which belongs more with them, and cedes San Benito and Monterey to the newly formed central coast state of Serra. The new population figure for this state surpasses 4 million, and as pointed out, those farmers tend to be a pretty conservative bunch, so let's call this a more or less red state with serious agro-business concerns.
Groovy remains unchanged, other than renaming it after the poet Allen Ginsburg. He may have been a native of New Jersey, but he spent a lot of years in SF, and I would have named the state after the local poet Ferlinghetti, but A), nobody would be able to spell the name of the state, and B), he's not dead yet (I know, I'm surprised, too). In comments to this post Hey suggested that Silicon Valley probably wouldn't enjoy being lumped in with the other Bay Area counties, but I think San Jose would serve as a good internal counterbalance to the nuttiness sure to originate in San Francisco if they were their own state.
Serra (named after the founder of the many missions that dot these coastal counties) would be comprised of the central coast counties and would have a small population of only about 1.5 million, but would be center for tourism, have many major colleges, and have an abundance of natural beauty. Thought about naming it Steinbeck for that fella born in Salinas, but I thought Serra (despite the controversy around him) would be a better way to go.
Los Angeles would be all by its lonesome, the state would be called Pickford, rather than Los Angeles, seems appropriate to name this state after the first Hollywood starlet (her or Gish, take your pick). Plus she was business savvy, and did help found United Artists, so she works on a couple levels. Los Angeles county alone has over 10 million people so would be neck and neck with Reagan as largest state carved out of what used to be California.
Also mentioned in comments are the potential water fights a division would cause, but Serra, Pickford and Reagan have plenty of water, they just have to desalinate it. Nuclear power is the way to go, the designs for desalinating nuclear power plants that can be sited near population centers are being used (or are in the planning stages) in many countries. I think Serra, Pickford and Reagan should be happy to join that list and free each of those states from the water neediness that plagues the region. The Pacific Ocean is in no danger of being drained, it's just a bit too salty to drink, and that's easy enough to fix (and once the power plants are operational, cheap, too).
But then, I've thought that's the way to go for some time now.