Californians are notorious for their obnoxious claims to superiority, and with good reason! As an agricultural engine with a GDP roughly the size of France and among the most progressive social agendas in the country, Californians have long discussed the possibility of unshackling ourselves from our more backward brethren, whose slimy grip on our sun-kissed ankles is the only thing holding us back from a Swiss-like utopia but with beaches and tacos. (That, and the conservative pockets that include much of San Diego, Orange County and the Central Valley.) Do you guys remember this succinct, culturally-essentializing depiction of the nuclear holocaust, whose denouement features the entire state snapping off to go hang with Hawaii? (“Alaska can come, too.”)
California secession has been the basis of casual chatter for ages, but only following the Dawn of the Age of Trumparius has the state really examined the possibility of leaving.
Yes California—also known as Calexit, or #Calexit—proposes what the ancient Ebaumsworld video foretold so many years ago. Just as the UK decided to remove itself from the European Union, California is weighing the possibility of detaching itself from the dead weight of those 49 other states. “This is a very important question,” the website warns, in bold letters, before enumerating why secession is a viable option for California’s future. From the L.A. Times:
“California loses [by] being a part of America culturally and financially,” said Marcus Ruiz Evans, one of the group’s founders. “It could be a nation all its own, everybody knows that. The only question is if they want to break off.”
Superficially, it’s an appealing idea: Our coastline is going to be among the first to vanish under the rising seas once Scott Pruitt gets to rolling back the already scant environmental protections aimed at ensuring my hypothetical children at least learn how to walk before the ocean swallows them whole. (Just kidding—as a freelancer who will probably die under “TrumpCare,” I couldn’t have a baby for the next four years unless I’m prepared to deliver it alone over a bucket in a lean-to in the woods.)
Moreover, California has been specifically targeted by Trump for its clutch of sanctuary cities, to which our new dictator has threatened to deny federal funding. According to KPIX 5, officials are in the process of investigating ways of stymying funds to the federal government as a preemptive strategy to offset the financial hit the state will take if Trump does indeed make good on his threat.
“California could very well become an organized non-payer,” Willie Brown Jr., a former speaker of the state Assembly, told the station on Friday. “They could recommend non-compliance with the federal tax code.”
But, as Conor Friedersdorf points out in an op-ed for the L.A. Times, total secession would ultimately be a destructive flight of fancy. Without California, congress would be bled of much of its liberal representation, and frankly, screaming “SO LONG, SUCKERS” while an Indiana woman dies of a self-inflicted abortion and JFK brims with detained immigrants and refugees doesn’t really comport with the spirit of progressivism:
For decades California has exerted more influence on American politics and culture than vice versa. Secession would not improve our values. But it would practically ensure that the rest of the U.S. would drift farther away from our laid-back tolerance and easygoing diversity. And they’d still be our neighbors, geographic reality unchanged by political independence.
And then there are the people running it. Marcus Ruiz Evans, who spearheaded the initiative along with Louis Marinelli, was a registered Republican who used to host a conservative talk show in his native Fresno. He declined to tell the San Jose Mercury News whether he voted for Trump.
Marinelli, for his part, grew up in upstate New York and considered renouncing his American citizenship altogether in favor of emigrating to Russia, where he currently lives. In fact, it seems he resided in California only long enough to campaign for state Assembly as a member of the California National Party. If “California National Party” makes your insides cringe, consider some of Marinelli’s other platforms. From Wikipedia:
In 2006, Marinelli launched a Facebook group called “Protect Marriage: One Man, One Woman” which eventually grew to become the largest online social media network of social conservatives against the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States. It grew so large, in fact, that in 2009 Marinelli’s “Protect Marriage: One Man, One Woman” network merged with the National Organization for Marriage and Marinelli became a paid strategist for that organization (often working remotely from Russia) and the eventual brainchild of its 2010 Summer for Marriage Tour, for which he returned to the United States in order to participate.
Fortunately it didn’t take long for Marinelli to rethink his positions on marriage equality, thanks in large part to activists who helped him see the light during his tour. Having left his zeal for that issue behind, Marinelli seems to have aimed his laser-focus at moving forward with California’s long-held pipe dream.
But in addition to the inherent irresponsibility of abandoning the rest of the country to a senile madman, some of Marinelli’s plans for California’s future are undercooked at best. In an L.A. Times interview from August, 2015, reporter Patt Morrison points out the potential moral flaws in his positions:
When you argue for California to be able to make binding international trade deals or to control federal lands in the state, it has echoes of the states’ rights’ stand used in the 1950s and ‘60s to oppose civil rights.
We’re not taking away people’s rights; we’re for expanding people’s rights. California is the only state in a position to do this. If, say, Alabama were its own country, experts say it would be a failed state. California has what it takes to be our own country. But [these measures] aren’t going for that. We believe California can be granted extra sovereignty within the system and not leave the United States.
Nevertheless, Marinelli is closer to achieving his goal than he was two years ago. Earlier this week, around 7,000 volunteers were given the go-ahead to start collecting the 585,407 signatures required to allow voters in 2018 to decide whether they should alter the constitutional amendment that would let California break from the U.S. A 2019 vote would ask whether California should become a sovereign nation.
Daily Intel dismissed Calexit as “basically impossible,” a hard line to swallow considering that just last week, the notion of a total ban on refugees seemed not only impossible, but utterly incomprehensible. Nothing is impossible anymore.
It may not be impossible, but it would be very stupid. If California really is as exceptional as it makes itself out to be, it will realize that it’s our responsibility to stick this out with the other 49 lesser states. They need us now more than ever.