As the election returns tipped in Donald Trump’s favor late Tuesday, Shervin Pishevar, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist and Hyperloop One co-founder, tweeted that “if Trump wins I am announcing and funding a legitimate campaign for California to become its own nation.”
It wasn’t a joke. Other tech entrepreneurs immediately jumped on the bandwagon. The hashtag #Calexit trended on Twitter. Since then, nearly 200,000 people have “liked” a secession petition posted on the YesCalifornia.org website.
“We’ll just take our avocados and legal weed and go,” one proponent tweeted. Similar movements have cropped up in Washington and Oregon.
Look. We get the impulse. Trump’s bigoted, climate-denying, misogynist, anti-immigrant campaign ran counter to everything California stands for.
The vote in this blue state ran 2-to-1 for Hillary Clinton. California is the sixth-largest economy in the world, bigger than France. And, if those maps showing the United States awash in red are any indication, California’s population of nearly 40 million now has less in common than ever before with the rest of America.
But even if secession were a practical idea – and with 38 states and a supermajority of Congress needed to sign off on it, it isn’t – that’s not how we do democracy in this country. We don’t take our ball and go home.
We are one nation, as we say in our Pledge of Allegiance. It wasn’t OK when sore loser Texans and Southerners started secession petitions in 2012 after Barack Obama was re-elected, and it isn’t a productive use of California’s time and talent.
More constructive would be a statewide effort to stand strong and defend our values and economy against what is sure to be an onslaught of hostile federal legislation. Trump’s promise to dismantle the Affordable Care Act stands to slash billions of federal Medicaid dollars from the state budget and could cancel health insurance for millions of low-income Californians. This state is going to need all hands on deck to protect public health and mitigate the financial hit.
Trump’s vows to start a trade war with China would throw up a wall between companies such as Apple and one of its most important export markets. Such action also would slash California’s agricultural exports and devastate port traffic.
His immigration policies would gut a key source of skilled tech labor, the ability to hire engineers on H-1B visas. And the Central Valley harvest would grind to a standstill without seasonal Mexican labor.
Both sectors have to show Trump – and the rest of the country – that California’s economy, so dependent on globalization, can’t be put on the back burner in the vain hope of bringing the coal and steel jobs of yesteryear back to the Rust Belt.
More immediately, though, California companies could get out in front of Trump’s agenda. Why not find ways to bring more of those tech manufacturing jobs to this blue state, as has Tesla?
Or call a summit between environmentalists and real estate interests to address the worst obstacle to growth – the lack of affordable housing?
Or, individually, make a donation to any of the many organizations whose skills will be crucial to this state in coming months, including the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the local hospital, public university or legal aid clinic. Or keep the First Amendment alive and subscribe to a newspaper.
President Trump could be great for California. Or, unfortunately more probably, we could end up in damage-control mode, bigly. Blue state elites need to stop plotting exit strategies and crashing Canadian immigration websites, and get busy pitching in.