They’re calling it “Calexit” – the miniscule chance that California will decide to secede from the US following Donald Trump’s election.
Despite several valiant efforts before the Civil War, no state has ever legally seceded from the US (if anything, I thought Texas would be the first to do it).
The Golden State voted overwhelmingly in favor of Hillary Clinton, and many liberal Californians are now questioning their place in the nation.
“Right now California is the polar opposite of what is going on politically, culturally, and in some cases economically in Donald Trump’s America,” says political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe.
Breaking up the US is “an inconceivable thought,” argues Democratic strategist and California resident Darry Sragow. “I don’t see how Californians get to the point where a majority of us want to secede… I cannot envision a circumstance under which the rest of the country would even think about this for a nanosecond.”
But that possibility is exactly what a group of secessionists called “Yes California” is considering, and they have already proposed a future ballot measure that would ask registered voters whether California should become its own country.
The two-year-old grassroots movement went from 500 Twitter followers before the election to more than 16,000 afterwards. They argue that Californians pay too much in federal taxes ($370 billion annually) and could put that money to good use fixing the state’s deteriorating infrastructure.
It would require 585,407 signatures to place a Calexit option on the November 2018 ballot. After that, two-thirds of Congress would have to agree to an amendment allowing secession; at least 38 states would have to ratify it.
“That is less likely to happen than Donald Trump appointing Hillary Clinton secretary of state,” jokes UC Hastings College of Law Professor David Levine.
With a population of over 38 million, California is an economic and tourism powerhouse that the feds won’t want to relinquish. If California became a separate nation, it would be the sixth largest economy in the world.
Yes California already has 13,000 volunteers willing to collect the 500,000+ signatures they would need to qualify for the ballot, but Sragow points out that the organization has little chance of success without serious financial support.
“Operationally qualifying for the ballot is difficult and ordinarily involves the expenditure of large amounts of money in the seven figures. That’s a hurdle that very few grass-roots movements clear.”
San Jose State Political Science Professor Larry Gertson agrees that secession just isn’t feasible. “This movement has a small core. It makes news because it’s different. It would be extraordinary for it to go much farther than it’s gone… All we have to do is take a look at the value of the state. It would be an incredible loss. California is a very robust state for a reason and it has to do with all these resources here both man-made and natural.”
A recent study by National Priorities Project found that California receives $193 billion annually in federal benefits including food stamps, Social Security payments, Pell grans, and unemployment insurance.
The state’s annual share of the federal defense budget is $72 billion. How much would the state be willing to spend on a new military – not to mention its own social security program, postal service, and diplomatic corps?
“The transition alone would be just sort of mind-boggling,” says National Priorities Project research director Lindsay Koshgarian. “The sheer bureaucracy that California would have to create for itself is really easy to under-appreciate. There are all these federal workers, and the vast majority of them really do something.”
Yes California VP Ruiz Evans knows he’s aiming high. “Our goal is to get to a tipping point. Our point is to prove there’s a market,” he said.
Editor’s note: Obviously this is farfetched and poorly thought out, but crazier things have happened. If it is true they are only lacking financial backing, look for the effort to gain steam. Somebody will step up, could be Liberals, could be Conservative, could be the Chinese, the Russians or someone in the Middle East. Stay tuned folks!