December 14, 2016

Calexit: An idea whose time is now

Flag-of-California.jpg

I've been sitting on the blog post below for a few days now. I held off on publishing it because I was aware that my views were evolving more rapidly than I was comfortable with, and I don't like to put things out there that I can't ultimately stand behind. I'm hitting the "publish" button now, and I have a few things to add, but I thought I'd leave the original post as it is, as a marker of what I was thinking a few days ago, and how it compares to how I feel now. But first, a few additions.

It's been an extraordinary few days. Not only have we heard that the Russians attempted to sway the election towards Trump, we're now hearing, in the language that is used for such high-level leaks and off-the-record comments, that our nation's intelligence chiefs believe that "Putin himself personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was being leaked and otherwise used." Some say, correctly, that we should be cautious in evaluating this claim, given that U.S. intelligence officials have a long history of dissimulation and outright lying. But the accusation itself is serious enough that it deserves serious inquiry, and it would be damning if the GOP leadership was seen to be complicit. Update as I was about to publish: The White House now says Trump knew before Election Day that the Russians were involved.

Quite apart from that, however, we've seen more of Trump's putative cabinet named, and it's truly astonishing how many of them not only do not believe in the missions of the departments they've been nominated to lead, but are actively interested in eliminating them or rendering them impotent. Given the seriousness of the Russian election hacking claim, the nomination of Rex Tillerson--a man who was awarded a medal by Putin--as Secretary of State is particularly ominous.

And then, in a moment of indiscretion (which, God knows, he's had more than a few of in his time), Newt Gingrich, who's been consulted by the Trump team, let slip that the goal of Trumpism is to "eradicate FDR government." What this means, of course, is the dismantling of the social safety net that began under FDR in the 1930s, a net that includes Social Security. With Paul Ryan already declaring his intention to end Obamacare and privatize Medicare, we're looking at setting social programs in this country back by eighty years.

Ordinarily, this is the point at which I say, "Time to fight. Write to your Congressman. We can defeat these people."

Here's the thing, though: Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by 2.85 milliion votes (and they're still counting). She won the California popular vote by 4.27 million votes. That's how much our votes didn't count. That's how different we are from the rest of the country.

In fact, when you back California out of the equation, Trump won the popular vote, which could explain why President Obama appears hell-bent on ensuring a smooth transition of power to someone who is going to utterly obliterate the Obama legacy, and why Hillary Clinton and her campaign staff have been curiously silent on things like the Wisconsin recount until their hand was forced. The Electoral College appears ready to obediently vote Trump into office despite all the recent revelations. The people and institutions which are supposed to act as a safety check are all failing.

But back to those 4.27 million votes. It's almost as if we were a separate nation. Hmmm.

All by ourselves, we have the world's sixth-largest economy. Our population is larger than that of Canada. We send billions to the federal government in taxes every year, and for every dollar we send, we get less than a dollar back in federal funding and programs. South Carolina, on the other hand, gets more than $7 for each $1 in taxes. Simply put, we're financing the people who want to turn the clock back eighty years, and I'm a bit tired of it. And at the same time, we're more than rich enough to succeed as an independent nation.

Increasingly, our values are seemingly not those of Americans at large. Unlike the rest of the country, we're a "majority minority" state--whites no longer form the majority here. Our major cities have Spanish names--San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento. That's because this used to be Spanish, and later Mexican, territory. Californians are used to hearing Spanish spoken, as well as Chinese and Farsi and Vietnamese and Arabic. We're used to living with people who don't look like us, and who don't worship in the same way. We're fine with that. We love and respect our LGBTQ neighbors and friends. We affirm the validity of their marriages and relationships. We're fine letting transgender individuals use whatever damn restroom they're most comfortable with. We're not afraid of the Other. We're dedicated to equality, to diversity, to doing what we can to protect the least of us. Here, where John Muir documented the beauty of the Yosemite Valley, we're dedicated to protecting the environment. The rest of the country just voted to dismantle all of that.

California is not going to just stand by and let that happen.

And if it comes down to it, we're ready to stand on our own. Just today, Governor Brown said that if Trump turned off the Earth-monitoring satellites, "we'll build our own damn satellites." That's not just rhetoric--we really could. We have the knowledge, we have the scientists, we have the money, we have the launch facilities, we have the aerospace manufacturing know-how, we have the technology.

All of the foregoing is why I'm ready to endorse independence for California.

It's not my first choice. I'd prefer to see the grifters in the incoming administration get the boot, but that's not happening, and if we can't save the entire United States, we should do what we can to save our part of it. It won't be easy. It won't be quick. There will be terrible resistance to the idea, and nobody knows to what lengths the opposition would go to prevent it. But it's better than seeing outsiders destroy what we have here.

California was once where ideas were born that spread across the nation. But the nation has changed, having seemingly lost its will to live up to the lofty ideals on which it was founded, and if they prefer to follow a different path, it's time to strike out on our own. Time for us to grow up and take our place in the community of nations.

And if you believe as we do, come along with us. We'd love the company.


Original post:

As I said here, we settled the question of whether states can secede rather decisively in 1865.

That being said, it is unsettling to watch the parade of grifters and opportunists emerging from Trump Tower as Cabinet nominees. If we emerge from the next four years (or, God forbid, eight years) with the nation intact, it will be a small miracle. We can only hope for incompetency at this point. It's understandable that some might prefer to go it alone in order to preserve what would be, after all, the sixth largest economy on the planet if it were independent.

I'm not endorsing California secession, but I'm no longer sure it would be a bad thing if it happened. We need to fix the broken U.S. electoral system, or we in California will continue to be essentially irrelevant in national elections. And considering that we give more to the federal government in taxes than we get back, that's pretty close to being taxation without representation. Taxation with inadequate representation, let's say.

Of course, Putin would love if this happened. Breaking up the U.S.--even just breaking off a chunk--would be a victory for him. China? Probably not so much--they are heavily invested over here, after all, and political instability breeds economic uncertainty--but if the Trump Administration gets hostile, all bets are off.

And, quite honestly, a lot of us are feeling more like Californians these days, and less like people who share anything at all in common with the red states that voted the Orange One into office.

I'm not saying it'll happen. I know my history. It's the most uphill of all uphill battles, and it's highly unlikely, to say the least. I'm not saying it's even a good idea as things stand right now. But given the right set of circumstances, and if things go sufficiently badly with the federal government, I'd rather live in a free California than in an authoritarian United States that's been set back fifty or a hundred years in terms of social progress and civil rights. I can now conceive of a situation in which I'd support it.

And if other people like me--college-educated, politically oriented, economically stable--are thinking this way, the crisis we face is bigger than anyone realizes.