Calexit, a portmanteau for California Exit, describes the possible secession of the State of California from the United States of America and its establishment, or reestablishment, depending on your view of history, as an independent and sovereign state. The movement in its modern form may seem, to those unfamiliar with the very unique history of the state, as something that has arisen from nowhere. A movement inspired only by the context of the modern political environment and something which may fade when the political winds blowing out of Washington D.C. change, particularly if a Democrat coalition comes to power. The matter is, however, not so simple.
California became a state in 1850 after the titular Compromise of 1850 when the Southern States agreed to admit California as a free state in exchange for a series of concessions, namely reducing the size of the annexed Las Californias province to the borders of the modern-day state of California. Much of this land to the East of California would go on to become Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming and small parts of other states in the region, but the size and scope of California, even reduced to its current borders, continues to play a role in the state’s politics, including its history of sovereigntist and regionalist movements.
Only five years after becoming a state the California State Assembly passed a plan to trisect the state, the 1855 plan. The southern counties of California, extending from the border with Mexico to roughly as far north as Monterey along the coast, would become a state known as Colorado (which is unrelated to the modern state), while the counties north of this area were to become known as the state of Shasta. The motivation behind breaking up the newly formed state was the expansiveness of its remaining territory and the difficulty in governing such disparate areas. This would have served to expand the representation of the very large but underpopulated California in Congress (as every state is entitled to at least one representative in the house of representatives and to two senators).
In 1859, the entirety of the California state government approved of the titularly named Pico act, which sought to separate the areas of the state below the 36th parallel (which were massively underpopulated and mostly consisted of desert and a small coastal strip which is today the inland empire) into a separate territory which would have become the territory of Colorado, once again unrelated to the modern-day State of Colorado. This did not occur as Congress, which must approve all changes in a state’s border, along with the relevant legislature(s) become embroiled in the Civil war.
There would be a few other small attempts to split the state, such as a 19th century desire to break the state into two along the Tehachapi Mountains which run just north of Los Angeles and the Mojave Desert, but this amounted to little more than discussion within the elite circles of California’s political class.
These are all movements to partition California, and self-evidently so, but they demonstrate a long held conviction at the political level for radical change in the composition and status of the state, this can also be exemplified in the small Californian irredentist movement which seems to reunify the state with the Mexican state Baja California and Baja California del Sul, though this ideology is extremely fringe even among the large Mexican population which now residents within the state and the broader region. California is a place which does not fear radical ideas and is often highly motivated to act upon them.
California has been an independent state before, though only of a certain sort and for a remarkably short period of time. The Bear Flag Revolt, eternalized in the modern flag of the state, which took place during the Mexican-American war, saw California, then the Mexican province of Las Californias, break away from the Centralist Republic and Mexico. The Californians, mostly composed of European Americans, established the short-lived California Republic which existed, unrecognized as a sovereign state by any other, for just under a month from June 14th to July 9th of 1846. The American naval Lieutenant Joseph Revere, grandson of the great American patriot Paul Revere, would later arrive and raise the US flag over the Sonoma barracks, ending the California Republic’s short flirtation with sovereignty.
This flirtation, combined with California’s distance from Washington D.C. and relative geographic and economic isolation from the remainder of the country, has left a lasting impact on California, including in how it makes policy as outlined in in Part Two of this series. California has its own environmental regulation, which it even enforces with border checkpoints, California conducts extremely unique trade relations with the rest of the world, its power grids, natural gas pipelines and supply chains are often more connected with the outside world than the rest of the United States.
A revival in Californian nationalism has been underway since the year 2015, when Donald Trump came onto the political scene and a radical shift in American politics away from coastal liberalism began to take hold in the United States. California, conscious of its history and its general separation from the remainder of the country quickly came to fear what a Trump administration would come to look like, and soon Californians themselves began to organize.
This organization first came about, in a political form anyway, through the founding of the California National Party in 2015. The party, largely based on the Scottish National Party which has held political control of Scotland for over two decades, is progressive in nature and is led by Sean Forbes and Yvonne Hargrove, though was founded by a coalition of people around the foundational leader Michael Loebs.
Yes California, which also takes markers and aesthetic cues from the Scottish National Party, was founded by Louis J. Marinelli. Marinelli previously served as the interim chairman of the California National Party, but distinct political differences arose as Martinelli is predisposed to libertarianism and was, at one time, an anti-same sex marriage campaigner, though he claims to no longer hold these views. Martinelli voted for Donald Trump and until recently lived in Russia from where he ran the Yes California political action committee.
Beyond the simple internal politics of California, the history of Californian nationalism has played a broad role on the political landscape of the United States. When Yes California and the California National Party were growing rapidly in the post 2016 electoral era, and polling in support of Californian independence was as high as 32%, progressive papers and personalities such as the Los Angeles Times and Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles, were vocal in opposing the independence movement, not on the grounds that it would be bad for California, but based upon the belief that independence would be a disaster for the progressive and liberal movements in the broader United States.
Calexit has found great support in the past, however. Personalities such as Peter Thiel have supported the idea of Californian independence, not only because it would be good for California, but also because it would free the remainder of the United States from the generally liberal-interventionist nature of California and Californians. Thiel is quoted in his New York Times interview on the matter as saying “I think it would be good for California, good for the rest of the country. It would help [U.S. President] Trump’s re-election campaign.”. This sentiment was also echoed by the San Jose Mercury News which believed that the economy of California would continue to drive under a sovereign California Republic flag.
Poll Three Part Two: Is National Divorce a Solution?
Poll Three Part One: American Democracy in Crisis
Follow Up to Our Second Poll
Most White Republicans at Least Slightly Agree with the Great Replacement Theory
“Wokeness” is Now Almost as Dangerous as “Racism” for Politicians and Businesses
Calexit Part Two: Policy Implications for the California Republic and American Nation
Red vs. Blue Patriotism
Greater Idaho: A Vision for a Red Super-State
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