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.
"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: From where did the serious movement for Californian secession originate?
Louis J. Marinelli: Our present movement for California secession originated from the realization and the acceptance of the fact that the American federal system is broken beyond repair, that the country is like a dysfunctional household, and that there is such great animosity in the country that it would be better for California to separate itself from all the negativity.
Cotto: Above and beyond anything else, what motivates most of the volunteers for YesCalifornia?
Marinelli: Our volunteers are primarily motivated by the opportunity to fight to preserve the Californian way of life. That is to say, our volunteers care about women, LGBT, and other minority rights, our volunteers care about the environment, about healthcare, about education. All of these issues are at risk under a Donald Trump administration –particularly civil rights issues. There is no doubt that California has a different worldview and culture than the rest of the United States.
Our people demonstrated that not only in the most recent election but by our actions to advance progressive values over the past several decades. Now all of that is at risk and our volunteers have come to the realization that the danger is external to California – the danger is the American people and who they elect to represent them. Our volunteers no longer believe in the fairness or effectiveness of the American federal system and have instead emplaced their trust and allegiance in California.
Cotto: Just how major a catalyst for independence was the election of Donald Trump?
Marinelli: Although our campaign began a few years before Donald Trump was elected, he certainly motivated a great number of Californians to align themselves with our cause – a cause they might have laughed at even three months ago. A sizeable portion of our members are members because Donald Trump was elected. In fact, 62% of our members say Donald Trump is at least one of the primary reasons they support Calexit.