Friday 18 November 2016

Will California Secede from the US over Election Result?

In the wake of Donald Trump winning the US presidential election, and the Republican Party winning both houses of Congress, the movement for Californian independence, or Calexit as it has become known, has gathered pace. The obligatory hash tag is trending on Twitter.

One such campaigning group, ‘Yes California,’ founded in 2013, has seen its profile rise after last week’s US elections. The state has a liberal outlook, and almost always votes for the Democrat Party in Presidential and Congress elections. They have elected Republican governors, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he stood on a very liberal ticket. Trump’s election has caused widespread unhappiness in the ‘Golden State.’

California has the sixth biggest economy in the world, roughly on a par with the UK, and Californians may be joined in the push for secession from the US by the two other west coast states, Oregon and Washington, and even Nevada and Hawaii, in what would be a mighty western American nation state. Cascadia is the name that has been mooted for the new nation.

Calexit is getting backing from the tech industry in Silicon Valley and the media industry around Hollywood. The state’s economy is also based on agriculture, with much of the US’s home produced fruit and vegetables, and wine, produced in California. There is no doubt that California would manage just fine as an independent nation, and even more so if joined the other states mentioned above.

Yes California’s website has had 2 million visits since the election and the group has grown from 1,500 volunteers prior to the election to over 10,000 in the week post election. The immediate aim is for the group to collect enough signatures to put a referendum on the issue on the state ballot in 2018.

Although it is perfectly feasible for California, even on its own, to become independent, there are formidable obstacles to this becoming a reality. The US Constitution forbids unilateral secession by any state, so first this would need to be amended. For that to happen would require the support of both houses of Congress and 38 state governments. On the plus side, judging by some of the social media comment, other states may be willing to oblige those states wanting to secede. This quote is just one example:

‘California is already flooded with illegals and is rapidly becoming a majority minority state. Good riddance.’

After the Brexit vote in the UK , Britain has seen similar secession feeling in parts of the country, most notably in Scotland, but to a lesser extent also in London. We could well see another independence referendum in Scotland, and that could set in motion a train of events which encourages the fledgling London independence movement. California could add momentum to the break up of the UK, by setting a good example, as it were.

When you think about it, London and California have much in common, apart from the weather, in that both have thriving technology and media industries, the new industries, as well the financial services sector. California has the edge over London in tech and media, but London does so in finance. The news that Californian company Google, is to expand its operation in London, is an indicator of the similarity in skill sets of Londoners and Californians.

The Trump win, and the Brexit vote are part of a piece, where a chasm has opened up between people in parts of both the US and UK. Those of a liberal, internationalist bent are in despair with their fellow citizens who have taken a reactionary, isolationist, inward looking, xenophobic and racist attitude to the world.

California is different from many parts of the US, as is Scotland and London from the rest of the UK, with their citizens seeing themselves as progressive and outward looking to the world. It is true that these places have done relatively well out of globalisation, but that is because they have embraced it and made it work for them.

Contrast this with the feeling of victimhood and nostalgia for the 1950s demonstrated by the Trump and Brexit votes, where foreigners are to blame for everything, rather than their own government’s worship of big business as the solution to the challenges of the modern world.

Something has to give, as the division is probably too wide to heal. Progressives need to fight back against the reactionaries, and independence is likely the only way to save ourselves from living in a shit country.    


  1. The idea that citizens in California and London have embraced globalisation and made it work for them rather suggests that the rest of the population should stew in their own juice for not having enough "get up and go" or getting on their bikes.

  2. You may well draw that conclusion, the same could be said of Manchester.

  3. Re ex-Governors of California, I recall my maternal great aunt and second cousin as they visited us in the UK in the 1960's from Berekely, California, speaking woefully of the broken promises of their then Governor.

    The name of that Governor? Ronald Reagan, a Republican.

    Alan Wheatley

  4. "California has the edge over London in tech and media,..."

    But City A.M. freebie newspaper reports: London beats Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris to be named best city in Europe for digital startups - Nesta.

    Alan Wheatley