In case you’ve been living in a hole for the last week and a half, Californians are pretty pissed off about the result of the presidential election. Large protests have sprung up in virtually every major city and on many of the state’s college campuses. The State Senate recently sent out a statement essentially promising that it will do anything in its power to reject every attempt at federal intervention in California policy. And #notmypresident — a hashtag largely driven by California and Oregon residents — has been trending since hours after the election. Though these responses are not necessarily surprising following an unexpected election result, the amount of steam that the so-called “Calexit” movement has picked up is.
If you’re one of the 12 people who still have not heard about Calexit, it’s the idea that California (and possibly its surrounding states, though only Oregon and Washington are included frequently) should secede from the United States of America. The main rationale behind this is the fact that California rejected Donald Trump by a margin of roughly 62 percent to 33 percent, the largest difference of any state, and that the ideals of the vast majority of California’s nearly 40 million residents are not in line with the ideals of the country.
Secession is certainly not a new idea in California (not to mention Texas has been trying to secede since it became Texas), but already-existing secession organizations like yescalifornia.org have capitalized on the state’s dismay (most would say very successfully) and distributed info about secession via social media. The movement has slowly gained both popularity and credibility, and major national news outlets are even speculating about what a Calexit would look like.
Still, secession is extremely unlikely to succeed; it would not only have to gain a popular vote in a California referendum, but it would likely require a constitutional amendment. However, before taking the big picture into consideration, Californians should start with the most important question — that is, do we really want to secede?
I want to start out by saying that in theory, California would probably be the coolest nation ever created. Think environmental utopia. Think socialized health care. Think LGBTQ and racial/religious minority safe haven. Essentially, an independent California would be itself on steroids. And many residents believe that a separation from the Union would give California the ability to realize its full potential.
One of the most frequently cited statistics by proponents of secession is the size of California’s economy. As the sixth largest economy in the world in terms of GDP (and possibly fifth if we were to include Oregon and Washington), the state would still be a major player in world trade, especially in terms of agriculture and tech. Independence would give California the ability to set its own trade rules that match its unique economic circumstances and control the way its resources are managed on a more local scale. Pretty cool.
Other arguments for secession include the improvement of public schools through separation from federal curriculum and money allocation requirements (including a likely break from any creationism in public schools, might I add), the ability to handle our unique immigration challenge as we see fit and a break from the right-wing tax policies and ridiculous military spending that has sent the United States into a perpetual state of mass debt.
As a very liberal Californian from a suburb of the beautiful city of San Francisco, and as someone who has felt an increased sense of state pride (no pun intended) since the election, the new country of California seems like my kind of place. I’m not an economist and I’m not an anthropologist, but even I can see the various ways that a break from the United States could mean improvement for a unique state that craves a unique kind of social and economic policy. But despite this, I’m not going to tell you that you should embrace the Calexit movement and I’m not even going to tell you that I have. And I’m ready to explain why.
First, we have to consider the California residents who don’t agree with typical California values. As I mentioned before, Donald Trump captured 33 percent of California’s vote, meaning that roughly four million people were passionate enough to get up on election day and cast ballots for a conservative presidential candidate they knew was going to lose in their state. While it’s easy to simply cast these people aside and tell them that they should just leave or deal with the changes, we have to remember that the sheer size and biodiversity of our state means that there are entire regions of California that consistently vote conservative, and that it’s unrealistic to expect people to just pick up their things and go.
I’m not an economist and I’m not an anthropologist, but even I can see the various ways that a break from the United States could mean improvement for a unique state that craves a unique kind of social and economic policy.
Napa Valley, now considered one of the best (if not the best) producers of high quality wine in the world, is one of these conservative regions. Many California farmers identify as conservative as well. Let’s not forget that the booming economy that would allow California to remain an international power is partly reliant on these people.
Second, we have to consider the other liberals in the United States. While some claim that California does not have a say in choosing the president and that the results are often already determined before California’s votes are even counted, this is only because predictors assume that California’s 55 electoral votes will necessarily go to the Democratic candidate. A removal of these 55 electoral votes would make it a daunting task to elect Democratic candidates in the future, not to mention it would remove primarily Democratic representatives and senators from Congress.
A Calexit, especially in conjunction with the secession of Oregon or Washington, would mean that the Republican party would dominate the United States. California would then be primarily responsible for the ultra-right policies instituted in other liberal states like New York and Illinois, which would possibly include mass deportations, reversals of women’s rights and LGBTQ rights and extreme environmental deregulation. Our liberal utopia might share a border with one of the most conservative countries in the free world — a virtual Reaganistan.
Of course, it’s true that when I continue to see heated discussion about Calexit as a legitimate movement, it fires me up. It makes me realize that my state doesn’t take bigotry lightly. It makes me imagine the reality that such a movement could create. It makes me wonder where I would fit into that beautiful reality. But in the end, Calexit might only be a way of turning our backs on the problem and allowing it to exist elsewhere; this should not be the aim of a progressive movement.
So before making a decision about Calexit, remember to consider all the factors and ask yourself whether the movement can be formulated in a way that provides answers to the challenges I’ve presented above. If not, then maybe it’s not worth supporting.
Dylan Parisi wants you to really consider why you would support a Cal-exit.