Golden State waves goodbye : ‘Calexit’ movement’s a joke that’s become almost serious with Trump election?

Nov 14th, 2016 | By | Category: In Brief

California’s present state flag is a legacy of the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846, when American settlers in Mexican Alta California declared a new republic. The territory in question officially became part of the United States at the end of the Mexican War in 1848, and then the “free labor” 31st state of the union in 1850.

You’ve of course already heard of “Brexit” – Britain leaves (exits) the European Union. (And this is something that’s already happening, in one degree or another. See, eg, the excellent Scottish journalist and writer Neal Ascherson on “England prepares to leave the world.”)

If you live north of the “unfortified” northern US border, you may also have heard of “Canadexit” – today’s independent “free and democratic society” in Canada finally leaves the British monarch as its symbolic “head of state.” (See, eg, our own counterweights editors on “Happy Canada Day 2016 – for Canadians biggest Brexit impact may be Canadexit from King Charles III.”)

UCLA students march through campus on November 10, 2016, protesting presidential election of Donald Trump, in state where only one third of voters endorsed him. Photo Frederick J. Brown, AFP/Getty.

Now the big-surprise US election of this past Tuesday has brought fresh attention to “Calexit” – the most populous Golden State of California secedes from the United States of America. (See, eg, “’Calexit’ movement says Trump win helps their calls for California to secede” (Los Angeles Times)  and “Interest in #Calexit growing after Donald Trump victory” (CNN politics).

Why? Well, to start with this past Tuesday 62% of California voters chose Hillary Clinton and only 33% chose Donald Trump. The only other state with quite such strong support for the Democratic candidate was Hawaii.

(In the very special non-state case of the District of Columbia the number for the Democrat Ms Clinton was as high as 93%. Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont all went 61% for Clinton, and the State of New York went 59%.)

March on state Capitol in Sacramento, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, urging California to secede from the US. SOURCE: KCRA.

Meanwhile, “Gov. Jerry Brown warns Trump that California won’t back down on climate change.” And : “California will stay true to its liberal priorities and won’t back down from the fight against climate change following Donald Trump’s election as president, Gov. Jerry Brown said Thursday.”

Californians have also just voted to legalize marijuana and stiffen gun control. (And they voted  against a “measure” that “would have required condoms or other protective barriers to be used in pornographic films.”)

More generally, there has long been a good theoretical case for California as its own separate country.  A neatly printed sign carried by various Calexit (or “Yes California”) supporters over the past several days has summarized the story : “California is a nation not a state.”

* * * *

To start with here, California today has a somewhat larger population than the already separate North American country of Canada. (In current round numbers there are now more than 39 million people in California, and more than 36 million in Canada.)

In the high-growth, high-tech  corridor from San Francisco to San Jose known as Silicon Valley, the Golden State has what is almost certainly the most dynamic region in the current American economy. And Los Angeles remains home to what is still probably the leading entertainment industry on planet earth.

As explained by the Yes California website : “As the sixth largest economy in the world, California is more economically powerful than France and has a population larger than Poland. Point by point, California compares and competes with countries, not just the 49 other states.”

In a recent review of Emma Cline’s new book, The Girls, the novelist and critic Diane Johnson accidentally offered some further food for thought on California as a nation, not a state : “The Girls is … a very California novel … though we might think of the New York novel, or the New England, or the Southern novel, when it comes to California writing, the shared qualities of its great exponents … aren’t often treated as adding up to a literature; California is the Canada of American regionalism.”

The Yes California website also argues that : “In the Spring of 2019, Californians will go to the polls in a historic vote to decide by referendum if California should exit the Union … You will have this historic opportunity because the Yes California Independence Campaign will qualify a citizen’s initiative for the 2018 ballot that if passed would call for a special election for Californians to vote for or against the independence of California from the United States.”

Whether any of this will finally happen no doubt remains rather and even quite unlikely at the moment. Former Texas governor Rick Perry mused out loud about seceding from the union, when he didn’t like what Barack Obama’s federal government was doing. But no one took his musings seriously in any practical way.

(It makes some sense too  that the two big states where secession talk sometimes half-seriously arises in the early 21st century are in places that the United States received … well, borrowed ? …  from Mexico in the 19th century.  Note too that last year the Los Angeles Times reported : “It’s official: Latinos now outnumber whites in California.”)

On some views of Calexit, Washington, Oregon, and Nevada – all of which also voted for Hillary Clinton on November 8, 2016 – should join the new free and democratic nation on the American Pacific coast.

Still, it does seem all too true that the USA today is increasingly divided into two warring camps – regardless of all the good will and talk about unity currently coming from the mouths of many eminent and wise Americans : politicians, comedians, and others.

It may be worth remembering as well that each camp has its own big-state champion in 2016 – Texas for the conservatives and California for the progressives. California has more than 10 million more people than Texas.  And as NBC News reported on November 12 : “Nearly 8K Anti-Trump Protesters March Peacefully Through Downtown LA.”  Or to cite the Los Angeles Times for November 13: “Anti-Trump protest updates: Demonstrators march in Hollywood.”

Across the USA the democratic majority of the American people did not in fact vote for Donald Trump. He has become president-elect through the late 18th century elitist “rigged system” of the electoral college. (Put another way, Hillary Clinton actually won the coast-to-coast US popular vote by more than half a million votes, and still counting.)

On the edge of the Pacific Ocean only a third of California voters opted  for Mr. Trump on November 8, 2016. If it ever really wanted to, the Golden State probably could become quite a successful country in its own right. Just like officially bilingual Canada, in the true north strong and free.

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