Calexit, the movement for California secession from the Union, has never gotten off the ground, despite the efforts of the so-called California Freedom Coalition, formerly Yes, California! which unsuccessfully tried running separatist ballot initiative drives in 2017 and 2020.
Its reasoning then was that California pays far more into the federal government in taxes than it gets back in federal spending, unlike much smaller states like West Virginia and Mississippi, which get far more back than they pay in.
Secessionists also held that this state is permanently underrepresented in the Senate and Electoral College compared with places like Alaska, Wyoming and Delaware.
If there are ever to be causes that might spur this state and perhaps some of its neighbors to go it alone, the twin U.S. Supreme Court decisions this spring to cancel out laws like California’s restrictions on carrying firearms and the federal right to female bodily privacy and, thus, abortion, might do it.
Right now, most voices opposing those decisions are exhorting their cohorts to “resist.” They don’t say how to do that effectively, even as the rulings are often compared to the Supreme Court’s infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision upholding the rights of slaveowners to pursue escaped slaves even in so-called “free” states.
That 7-2 ruling, like the 5-4 anti-abortion decision, was voted in by justices with personal interests in the cause at hand, folks who under some standards ought to have recused themselves from voting.
In the Dred Scott case, the court majority were slaveowners or former high officials of slave states from Maryland to Georgia. In the new anti-abortion ruling, all five justices voting to end the right are Roman Catholics taught since early childhood in church and/or school to oppose all abortions.
Abortion and gun control adherents can resist all they like, but it’s not likely to change a thing. When that sinks in, it’s just possible some people might consider other courses of action.
For sure, California often acts like a semi-independent country, and the abortion decision immediately set the state into action.
Within hours, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a compact with two other states, Oregon and Washington, to promote abortions in all three states to women in scores of Republican-controlled places where the procedures are now suddenly illegal or soon will be.
No one now knows whether this will be the first step in a move toward secession by California and its neighbors, with like-minded places like Hawaii and the Canadian province of British Columbia possibly joining in.
They might form a powerhouse country, perhaps called Pacifica, that could be a major world economic and military force.
Already, in spring 2020, when ex-President Donald Trump first indicated he might try cheating to hold on to power, the nominal head of the Calexit movement, Marcus Ruiz Evans of Fresno, observed that, “People are saying, ‘Hey, I used to think Calexit is a fanciful idea and I still do, but I’m coming around; we need a government that works and I don’t believe America can anymore.’”
That’s the same feeling a lot of Californians are voicing in the days after the Supreme Court’s two late-June decisions.
Some lately have cited an 1860 editorial from the Dubuque, Iowa, Herald that argued, “It does not follow that because a state cannot secede constitutionally, it is obliged under all circumstances to remain in the Union. There is a natural right, which is reserved by all men, and which cannot be given to any government…to form a government for their mutual protection…and for such other purposes as they may deem most conducive to their mutual happiness and prosperity.”
Those would be the very grounds toward which California and two of its neighbors now might be moving. Ironically, rather than resisting, what’s left of the Union might just say “good riddance,” since a California departure alone would all but assure indefinite Republican rule of the rest of America.
So far, though, secession is a mere idea that has never had much support. Yet, history shows that borders, policies and governments are never permanent, no matter what any constitution may say.
Email Thomas Elias at [email protected].