Leaving the Union
On February 4, 1861 Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Missisipi, and South Carolina seceded from the Federal Union to for the Confederate States of America. The following four-year struggle known as the American Civil War, or the Civil War left an estimated 620,000 to 750,000 deaths and has become one of the most studied and written parts of U.S. history. In 2018, now we see the drums for secession once again begin to beat as California begins a process of secession.
On April 25, 2018 leaders of a campaign called Calexit gained legislative approval to collect ballots to ask voters if they wish to separate the state of California from the union. Calexit has been proposed three times, and this year California Secretary of State, Alex Padilla gave the group permission to begin collecting ballots for a 2020 vote which would determine whether the state of California would secede and form a new republic.
The group leading this proposal, called Yes California,led by Marcus Ruiz Evans and Louis J. Marinelli, has tried for several years “to qualify the question for the 2015 and 2017 ballots without success.” (Richardson 2018) While the approval to collect signatures has been granted by the office of the secretary of state, the group will need to gain, “365,880 valid signatures by Oct. 17” (Richardson 2018) to be allowed to put the question to a state vote in 2020. Yes California, has been wanting to have California secede from the U.S. for some time. Following last year’s failure due to a scandal involving Marinelli’s Russian residency, the group has finally been able to begin taking ballots for the secession. Calexit, which is considered a leftist movement (that includes republican ideals such as small government and low taxes), has grown to about 44,000 members since the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
Even though there have been more than 200 attempts to secede in Californian history, this year’s Calexit has one of the highest success chances. While still a long shot at a little more than 2 to 1 eligible voters opposing succession, the movement has gained media attention. “[There will] be a lot of notoriety, there will be a lot of publicity, but I think in practical terms it's going to fizzle outâ€¦it would be ridiculous to secede from the union. The only person who would probably be happy about that is probably Trump.” (Daniels 2018) California is the fifth largest economy in the world and as a state has performed functions similar to a country like: “signing agreements, or memorandums of understanding, with nations on issues as well as climate change” (Daniels 2018) However, the constant opposition of California legislature towards the federal government has created an increasing divide in California that has led to the popularity of the movement. As of this moment, more than 30 lawsuits exist between the U.S. and California on issues that include immigration and climate change issues. The Yes California group has claimed that the state does not gets its fair share of federal spending and that independence will lead to California, “eliminating bureaucracy by half and cut overall taxes for businesses and individuals.” (Daniels 2018) Overall most financial experts don’t agree with this notion as many businesses and individuals have left the state due to overtaxing in favor of low tax or no income tax states like Texas and Washington. So how would California be able to succeed where the south had failed?
While California is taking a lot of inspiration from the some of the successes and publicity of Catalonia quest for for secession, there may need to be a history lesson as far as secession in the United States. In 1861, President Lincoln had made the point that a government that supports secession will disintegrate into anarchy and further claimed it was unlawful. In an address to congress on July 4th, 1861 President Lincoln said “The States have their status in the Union, and they have no other legal status. If they break from this, they can only do so against law and by revolution.” (National Park Service 2015) Given this policy it is unlikely that California would be allowed to secede even if they are able to get gain the votes needed to secede. Further the state’s current politics may truly make an anarchy as the state houses many different political and cultural groups that have not only created a divide between the U.S. and California but within the state itself as political movements to split the state have also gained support along with secessionist.
Daniels, Jeff. 2018. The 'Calexit' plan to split California from the US gets a second chance, while others are looking to break up the state. April 24. Accessed June 18, 2018. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/24/calexit-plan-to-divorce-california-from-us-is-getting-a-second-chance.html.
Donnelly, Tim. 2017. CalExit Leaders Believe if Catalonia Can Do it, California’s Independence Easier. October 14. Accessed June 18, 2018. http://www.breitbart.com/california/2017/10/14/calexit-leaders-believe-catalonia-can-californias-independence-easier/.
National Park Service. 2015. Secession is Unlawful. April 10. Accessed June 18, 2018. https://www.nps.gov/liho/learn/historyculture/secunlawful.htm.
news.com.au. 2018. California secession movement gets the green light to gather signatures. April 25. Accessed June 18, 2018. https://www.news.com.au/world/north-america/california-secession-movement-gets-the-green-light-to-gather-signatures/news-story/6bb71b152b497af79f29e4dd3af693c1.
Pruden, Wesley. 2018. Can California do what the Confederacy couldn't? March 12. Accessed June 18, 2018. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/mar/12/can-california-do-what-the-confederacy-couldnt/.
Richardson, Valerie. 2018. Seccesionist Launch Petition Campaign for California Independence. April 24. Accessed June 18, 2018. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/apr/24/yes-california-secession-campaign-wins-approval-co/.