Millions of Californians greeted the election of Donald Trump with cries of “Not my president!” For more than few of them, it was a short trip from “Not my president!” to “Not my country!”
And so Calexit was born … and quickly died in the spring. Because, apart from the legal and logistical challenges of exiting from the union, the quixotic secession effort’s main sponsor had strange and unexplained ties to Russia. Talk about a PR nightmare.
Undeterred, Calexiters regrouped and strategized anew. Late last month, they returned with a new proposal they’re certain will catch on. Calexit II would repeal a provision of the state’s labyrinthine constitution that says California is “an inseparable part of the United States.” Who doesn’t love silver bullets?
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A third measure, filed last week to get on the ballot, aims at convening a national constitutional convention – perfectly legitimate under Article V – with the hope of doing away with the pesky provision requiring the consent of a supermajority of Congress to form a new state. The proposed fix would make a “clear and reasonable path for states to achieve complete independence from the United States should any state so choose.”
It’s a neo-con’s dream – a neo-confederate, that is.
Autonomy is nice. But true independence is difficult. Sure, we have the world’s sixth largest economy. We also have one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients and a gargantuan public debt. Our public schools continue to graduate functional illiterates. The interior of the state is rich with farmland, and yet its poverty rivals that of Mississippi.
And then there’s the question of all that federal property. You don’t think the U.S. government is just going to hand over all of that lovely beachfront property at Camp Pendleton, do you? Or Yosemite National Park?
I’ve written about the “if only” fallacy of politics before. It’s a bipartisan affliction, alas. Stated simply, our politics would be orders of magnitude better “if only” some grand reform or reformer were put into place.
On the left, the answer at the moment is secession. A few years ago, remember, Silicon Valley bigwig Tim Draper floated the idea of splitting California into six states. That proved too much, so he’s back with a much more modest plan: let’s split into three!
And on the right, it’s the never-ending quest for a knight in shining armor. Over the weekend, I was on a panel with my friends Bill Voegeli of the Claremont Institute and freelance journalist extraordinaire Katy Grimes, discussing taxes and regulation in California. (It was a lot more fun than it sounds.)
Our fourth panelist was Assemblyman Travis Allen, a Republican from Huntington Beach who is circulating petitions to repeal the $52 billion gas tax and vehicle license fee that the Democrats rammed through and Gov. Jerry Brown gleefully signed earlier this summer.
Oh, and Allen happens to be running for governor.
Allen is an affable guy – a surfer, he’ll have you know, and a businessman. But he makes a similar mistake, deadly in politics, of misjudging the nature and character of the crisis before us. “If only,” he said, “there was an election coming that could fix all of these problems.”
He was talking about the gubernatorial race. Elect him governor, and all of the state’s problems will go away, perhaps with a simple stroke of a pen or two. (Details were sparse.)
I recall (ahem) another governor making similar promises ahead of his election in 2003. Arnold Schwarzenegger talked a good game about reform, but delivered little in the way in results.
California’s problems are old and complex. Therefore, any solutions will be complex and take time to work. Leave the fantasies to Hollywood.