Story by Joseph Ford Cotto
Thirty years ago, you could not ask for more piping-hot, generously portioned slice of Americana than Orange County, California. The beating heart of heartland values was fertile ground for the John Birch Society, Ronald Reagan, the Moral Majority, anti-illegal immigration causes, and pro-traditional family campaigns.
In 2016, Orange went for a woman who boldly campaigned against what all of these stood for. It was not even close; Hillary Clinton triumphed over Donald Trump by nearly ten points, even as traditionally progressive locales back east shifted into the Republican column.
Across California as a whole, which was never so conservative as Orange County, Clinton secured an astounding 62 percent victory -- beating the Donald by 30 points.
This was surprising even to veteran political observers, who suspected any Democrat would win the Golden State, even if paired against an overwhelmingly popular Republican. The thirty-point margin, bolstered by the partisan defection of Orange County, was not anticipated, though.
California has been breaking from national political trends since 2010, when Democrats rushed Sacramento despite being routed almost everywhere else. 2012 reinforced the events of two years previous, even though congressional and state-level GOPers across the fruited plains did reasonably well. 2014, the mother of all anti-Democratic midterm waves, had no real influence on California's status quo.
2016 brought a rush of anti-Republican -- let alone anti-conservative -- sentiment to Sacramento. A tsunami of progressivism enveloped the state, but hardly anywhere else.
"Today, we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land," State Senate President Kevin de Leon and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon declared, "because yesterday Americans expressed their views on a pluralistic and democratic society that are clearly inconsistent with the values of the people of California.
"We have never been more proud to be Californians .... California was not a part of this nation when its history began, but we are clearly now the keeper of its future."
Not if some folks get their way.
"In our view, the United States of America represents so many things that conflict with Californian values, and our continued statehood means California will continue subsidizing the other states to our own detriment, and to the detriment of our children," the YesCalifornia movement declares on its website.
The group, which is pushing for a 2019 independence referendum, goes on to mention that its planned initiative "is about more than California subsidizing other states of this country. It is about the right to self-determination and the concept of voluntary association, both of which are supported by constitutional and international law.
"It is about California taking its place in the world, standing as an equal among nations. We believe in two fundamental truths: (1) California exerts a positive influence on the rest of the world, and (2) California could do more good as an independent country than it is able to do as just a U.S. state."
YesCalifornia has found a groundswell of public support, much of which has been buoyed by Trump's Electoral College super-victory. Still, there is more to the story of CalExit, as secession is often called.
Louis J. Marinelli, YesCalifornia's president, recently spoke with me about many issues relative to the Golden State becoming its own republic; what it was before joining the United States. Some of our conversation is included below.
Joseph Ford Cotto: If the independence referendum is successful, what next step would America's legal system offer?
Louis J. Marinelli: America’s legal system doesn’t offer one. The constitution is silent on the matter of secession, leaving issues not specifically discussed in the Constitution to the states and to the people via the Tenth Amendment. We intend to hold a fair and honest referendum on . We then intend to take these results to the international community and request international recognition.
International recognition is really the gamechanger when it comes to attaining nationhood. The other nations have to welcome you into the club, so to speak. That is why our campaign is already hard at work spreading our message and building bridges with the peoples of other countries.
Cotto: What about Texas v. White? That makes it so California cannot unilaterally secede, thus necessitating federal constitutional approval for independence. How would Yes California navigate these waters?
Marinelli: Texas v. White does not spell out constitutional amendment. It says consent of the states. California was made a state by an Act of Congress whereby a majority of the members of Congress approved its admission. That is consent of the states. California was made a state by an Act of Congress, it can be undone by an Act of Congress.
Also, we contend that California never actually joined the Union in the context that is described in Texas v. White. That decision refers to states that followed the normal procedure for joining the Union – a process which included holding a plebiscite vote of the local residents of the to-be state. Californians (Californios) never voted to join the Union.
California was militarily annexed and then made a state in a top-down approach, not bottom-up like the other states. So, Texas v. White doesn’t apply.