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: How would YesCalifornia market a pro-secession vote to the rest of the United States?
Louis J. Marinelli: We understand the rest of the country is a center-right country. Allowing California to leave the United States makes the United States a more homogenous country demographically speaking. That makes the country more governable and the population more easily represented in government. We will approach the American people with a proposition for an amicable divorce – one where both parties agree for the greater good.
The Americans can go there way and institute for themselves the type of center-right government that reflects their values, and we Californians can go our way and establish for ourselves the type of liberal progressive government that reflects our values.
No longer will the Americans have to fear California values being imposed on them and no longer will Californians have to feel that American politicians are holding us back or turning back the advance of progress. It’s a win-win.
Cotto: Under the most favorable scenario, how long might it take -- navigating through state and federal legal waters -- for California to be an independent country?
Marinelli: Most favorable scenario would be a vote in March of 2019 followed by a two or three year period to negotiate important issues with the Americans (such as debt, military bases, water, etc). At the same time we would begin the process of joining the United Nations and seek international recognition of the Republic of California. Best case scenario: 2022.
Cotto: As an independent nation, would California have the financial power to sustain itself -- thus avoiding the economic crises which many countries found themselves in after the colonial era ended?
Marinelli: Yes, California is the sixth largest economy in the world. By becoming an independent country we will save approximately $70B a year in taxes that are currently being lost every year to 1) subsidizing other states, and 2) subsidizing an unnecessarily large and bloated military budget.
By ending subsidizies to other states and reducing military spending to what is necessary for our defense in North America, we will have the ability to maintain every federal job, contract, office, program, grant, and project (mind you, they would be funded by Sacramento going forward), pay for new programs such as a defense department, fully fund the social programs we promise will improve the quality of life in California, but also we’ll even be in a position to reduce taxes and fees, and pay down the debt. Sounds like a fairytale but we can make it a reality and that’s what we intend to do.