April 27, 2020


'Calexit' May Be A Long Way Off, But Balkanization Won't Be (DAREL E. PAUL, 4/27/20, American Conservative)

The California roadmap is the latest in a long line of policies practically and symbolically distancing the Golden State from the rest of the country. California has long been the only state granted the right to maintain its own auto emissions standards. Since 2017 it has prevented state employees from traveling on official business to other states that, in the evaluation of its Attorney General, maintain legal "discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression." California is a self-declared "sanctuary state" limiting the degree to which state and local law enforcement may cooperate with federal immigration officials. In 2019 it began covering certain illegal immigrants in its state Medicaid program, and this year created a state-based coronavirus relief fund specifically for residents who are in the country unlawfully.

There is no doubt that California is both very peculiar and very large. Yet neither quality lends it the status of a nation, nor does it make California a state in the international legal sense of the term. Nonetheless one day it could become so, and the coronavirus pandemic is creating novel opportunities for California to travel down just such a path.

The state already has the political infrastructure to begin entertaining independence. In 2015 a set of quixotic activists formed the California National Party dedicated to the proposition that Californians deserve their own country. The next year a parallel organization, Yes California, formed to support an independence referendum for the state. Both the California National Party and Yes California are self-consciously modeled after the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the organization Yes Scotland that spearheaded the campaign for Scottish independence in 2014. 

Like their California emulators, the SNP was once little more than a fringe player in Scottish politics and for decades Scottish independence was considered a crackpot idea. All that changed in the 1980s and 1990s under eighteen consecutive years of Conservative Party rule in the United Kingdom. While England voted for Margaret Thatcher and her successor John Major, Scotland kept voting Labour. The partisan divide between the two countries grew so large that by the end of this long Tory era in 1997, not a single Conservative Member of Parliament remained in Scotland. As SNP members are continually fond of saying--both back then and under David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson―Scotland repeatedly got governments it didn't vote for. In the eyes of Scottish nationalists, the only way out is secession.

Californians can make a similar appeal. The state's Electoral College votes haven't gone to a Republican in over thirty years. Republicans haven't controlled a house of the California state legislature in twenty-four years and there hasn't been a single Republican elected to statewide office in California in ten years. Yet since 2000 Republicans have controlled the Presidency and the U.S. Senate 60 percent of the time and the U.S. House of Representatives 70 percent of the time. For eight of the past twenty years there has even been a Republican trifecta--simultaneous control of the White House and both houses of Congress. While Donald Trump won 46 percent of the national popular vote in 2016, he received a mere 32 percent in California, the third lowest proportion of any state in the country. The day after the election #Calexit became a leading social media hashtag. When campaigning for governor in 2018, Gavin Newsom told voters they were selecting the next "head of the resistance" to the President.

Culture won't be a significant driver when we divide into several nations; it will just be a function of size.  CA by itself vastly exceeds the optimal population of the freest nations. With 330 million people, the US stands out like a sore thumb on such lists.  Devolving into a series of American nations will just allow for more effective governance.

Posted by at April 27, 2020 12:00 AM