Any statistician or economist will tell you there is a huge world of difference between the improbable and the impossible. Brexit and the Trump presidency were both thought to be impossible, but they were proven to simply have been improbable.
And whenever I see an article about the move for California to secede from the United States (the so-called “Cal-exit”), the more I think that a vote to split is inevitable rather than improbable. As a member of the California Freedom Coalition recently told the Sacramento Bee, collecting signatures for the 2018 ballot, “We feel like this current initiative is more feasible and will hold up more to scrutiny and legal challenges.”
It is very easy to get an initiative on the ballot in California, so easy the left-leaning New Republic called it “a joke.” California made Arnold Schwarzenegger its governor. Twice. One might say passage of a secession referendum–even secession itself–might be improbable, rather than impossible, too.
Combined with its easily abused ballot system and politics that are vastly out of sync with America, California is a little full of itself. See, California isn’t like New York City, which—while it’s the economic and cultural center of basically the world—realizes that it needs the rest of the country for food, water, power, and a place to send its garbage. (New York’s annual garbage haul? 7.8 million tons per year. Where are you going to put that when you can’t even find a parking space in Queens?)
California doesn’t perceive it needs anyone, and on some points its massive ego is probably justified. It’s enormous in terms of geography, population, economy, and very importantly coastline. Moreover, its agricultural base could sustain the state by itself. The term “Golden State” is probably more accurate today than it was during the gold rush.
And they don’t like Trump. The state, with its high Latino population, particularly doesn’t appreciate Trump’s rhetoric about the “wall with Mexico.”
So let’s assume for a moment that California leaves, and when it does, expect the following five things to happen quickly:
1.) California as we know it will cease to exist.
There have long been plans to divide California in two, a la Virginia, and even an ambitious plan to divide it into six parts. If California is no longer inseparable from the union, then California itself is not inseparable.
Silicon Valley will form its own independent, Luxembourg-like nation, where it can ignore international law and avoid paying taxes. Bay Area millionaires and billionaires may pretend to still be 1960s liberals, but in practice they follow the legacy of Ayn Rand, not Haight-Ashbury.
Also, much of California will want to stay in America. Note this election night infographic from The New York Times.
Geographically, it looks like about half of California is red. Hmm. We wonder what loss of that land mass would do to the state’s self-sustaining agriculture…?
2.) New California will suspend long-standing liberties.
Whatever remains of old California will disregard classic liberal values in favor of modern day progressivism, which is a bizarre mixture of anarchy and fascism: They want the government to control your sugar consumption while de-criminalizing every dangerous drug available.
There is little love for hallowed First Amendment freedoms—except the right to protest, obviously—so don’t expect a freedom of speech, religion, or even the press in New California. Those rights get in the way of thought-policing and lawsuits. California has more lawyers than it could possibly need, and that means they need people to sue to stay in business.
3.) California will have to renegotiate deals they currently benefit from.
Though they may not realize it, California benefits enormously from its membership in our fraternity of states. (Oh! We just used a gender-specific term to describe association. That would get us imprisoned in New California.) Without influence in D.C., California will have to renegotiate its benefits from the federal government, notably for the military that protects it. California boasts more than 30 military bases—not including lesser facilities—with almost 200,000 active duty personnel. This is a particular issue for San Diego, given the enormous military presence there.
I am not sure what the going rate is for leasing battleships, but I’m going to bet the price would be high. Luckily for Californians we have an American president who loves negotiating!
Furthermore, California has one of the lowest rates for providing military enlistees, so there might be an even bigger problem there.
The more pressing problem is water. (Check out Bloomberg’s “California’s Drought In Two Terrifying Charts.”) The reason that they can get so much water from the Colorado River is the California delegation can overwhelm all the other Western states in Congress. How are they going to water their life-saving marijuana farms if Colorado, Utah, and others pull the plug?
4.) California will quickly become a failed state.
The state’s enormous power didn’t happen because of modern-day progressivism. Its accumulated advantages are decades and even centuries old, whether it’s from higher education, the military industrial complex that birthed Silicon Valley, that coastline I mentioned, or even just the nice weather. It would be almost impossible to ruin a place with California’s advantages.
But folks in Sacramento are doing their best to try.
Were California to kick the few remaining grown-ups out of the room, there would be no one left to keep the state on track. There would be no R.A. Even now, California faces:
- Enormous debt, with one estimate at $400 billion, and another putting the state’s pension liability alone at $500 billion.
- A catastrophic teacher shortage.
- Gang violence and a rising violent crime rate.
- Terrible measures of government transparency and accountability.
The left-leaning UK paper The Guardian even asked if California would become America’s first “failed state.” Yes to the failed, no to the America.
5.) Republicans will control Washington forever.
California is the only thing keeping the Democratic Party relevant on the national scale. Republicans have won every run-off race in 2017 and just picked up another governor. The Democratic Party is in shambles.
Were it not for California, Trump would have won the popular vote by almost 1.5 million. Most importantly, without the California Congressional caucus in Washington, the Republican edge in the House of Representatives almost doubles.
The Democrats would lose two Senates seats too, which isn’t as significant, but if Red California stays with the union, that would be a four-seat swing. Boom.
Getting Cal-exit on the 2018 ballot is going to happen. But actually secession is obviously more complicated University of Virginia law school professor Cynthia Nicoletti told Business Insider, “There’s no legal path to secession.” Others point out that it would likely take a Constitutional Convention and ratification, which might move everything closer to Civil War territory. Even before that happens, however, California’s state legislature has approve secession, which may not be as easy as the ballot initiative that started it all.
The great irony of Cal-exit is that these people’s solution to Trump’s imposing a political border (between the U.S. and Mexico) is to create … another political border.
Jared Whitley is political writer who served as press liaison for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), associate director in the White House under George W. Bush, and has worked in the defense industry. He has appeared in The Weekly Standard, The Daily Caller, The Salt Lake Tribune and Cracked.