Public Comment

Should California go alone?

Bernie Quigley
Friday February 03, 2017 - 10:38:00 AM

The idea that something wonderful and mythic happens to a plain and ordinary man when he becomes president is magical thinking. When it is finally realized that President Donald Trump is a fraud the entire world economy could collapse. Perhaps California is on the right track in trying to find a better path; to go alone perhaps, or to find a way to limit influence of a federal government out of control, run amok or not to be trusted. 

What is to be done? Should California make an attempt to secede? It is possible? Is it constitutional and is that part important? Did Thomas Jefferson ask the king for permission to separate? Why should California ask anyone outside its fences permission to do anything it has not agreed to by treaty or contract within the current and rising generation? 

The New York Times has recently used the phrase “resistance”; the “California resistance”. It has a certain swagger to it. And Governor Jerry Brown promises to resist and invites other states and regions to join in with him in resistance to the Trump administration. 

What will happen next? Will Jerry Falwell, Jr. lead a federal task force on higher ed policy as the Chronicle of Higher Education’s headline suggests? And today is only Tuesday. Perhaps Brown’s call to go alone has been a long time coming. 

Centralized government may have made good sense prior to World War II, as we were still getting organized here in field and factory. As J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur wrote in Letters from an American Farmerin 1782, "Landing on this great continent is like going to sea, they must have a compass, some friendly directing needle, or else they will uselessly err and wander for a long time, even with a fair wind." 

But why should California's imagination, creativity and welfare be stunted in its involvement with other states and on the international stage by a historically antiquated and sclerotic vision of central planners 2,800 miles away in Washington (farther than Tibet is from Beijing)? Today Californians have more in common with Germany and Quebec than they do with Oklahoma and Texas. 

What are California’s options? To secede? To harass? To bring a states rights challenge to the federals at every turn as so many of the red states have been doing these past eight years? To join Canada is some Minnesotans have suggested they do? To divide into two states or multiple states? Perhaps a new approach should be looked at; multiple California regions in a parliamentary system united under a representative figure head as president and another as prime minister. Maybe former governors and other worthies should form together in an ad hoc council to discuss and form an original council of elders for fresh thinking. 

Surely former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger should be consulted. There was hardly a better match between man and place in the new world than Arnold Schwarzenegger and California. He might today be considered to have been well ahead of his time. He urged California to go its own way before it became cool to do so in a blue, liberal state. The federal government hovering like a UFO overhead often seemed to him a useless nuisance as it does to Brown and other officials today. 

In 2007 Gar Alperovitz, a progressive historian and scholar then at the University of Maryland, looked to the new California governor as a singular innovator. He wrote then in The New York Times: “SOMETHING interesting is happening in California. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to have grasped the essential truth that no nation — not even the United States — can be managed successfully from the center once it reaches a certain scale. Moreover, the bold proposals that Mr. Schwarzenegger is now making for everything from universal health care to global warming point to the kind of decentralization of power which, once started, could easily shake up America’s fundamental political structure … Governor Schwarzenegger is quite clear that California is not simply another state.” 

“We are the modern equivalent of the ancient city-states of Athens and Sparta,” Schwarzenegger declared in his state of the state address on January 9, 2007. “We are a good and global commonwealth.” 

The 21st century can be the Golden Century for the Golden State, Schwarzenegger said. 

There is still time. For California and perhaps for the rest of us. Because this time if America does not start again in California it will not start at all.