In the late 1970’s, my college friends in Connecticut sometimes teased me about coming from California: a huge earthquake, they said, would one day split the state from the rest of the country, depositing it into the Pacific Ocean; better buy some oceanfront property in Nevada! Perhaps they were thinking metaphorically of the degree to which California remained separate, in terms of its liberal politics, mindset, laid-back lifestyle, tolerance, diversity, weather, inventiveness etc. People here love to point out that, if ranked alongside all the nations of the world, California’s economy would be No. 6. We have economic engines such as the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, famous Wine Country, Central Valley agriculture, biotech and space industries, superb universities, electric cars, Google, Facebook, Twitter, touristic natural beauty, great Mexican food and, well OK, Hollywood too. Talk of seceding from the Union has always been a distant background noise, and not always originating from our own state: didn’t someone in the Utah state legislature, about two years ago, propose that California ought to be cut off?
Our Chaos President’s negative attitude toward California seems to be– surprise!– making things worse. He has moved to vastly expand offshore drilling along the California coastline, threatening coastal ecology and economies, as well as public health. His tax “reform” will increase the federal tax burden for Californians, prompting the state Senate to come up with a creative counter-proposal. He has undertaken punitive measures against sanctuary cities which are being challenged in the courts. His FCC has overturned net neutrality rules, and the fight to restore a free and open Internet has moved from Washington DC to Sacramento. He has withdrawn from the Paris Accord on climate change, so that Governor Jerry Brown now attends the international climate meetings and commits California to surpassing the terms to which the US previously agreed. While Trump wants to prop up coal and oil, California is fast building up solar and other renewable energy. Trump’s first move as president was to cancel the Trans-Pacific Pact, leaving the US on the sidelines while China expands its influence in Asia and Europe; California has prudently continued to negotiate its own, separate trade deals on the world stage. Now North and South Korea have begun talks, encouraged by China and Russia– again leaving the US to worry from the sidelines, largely because of Trump’s bellicose schoolyard tweets about Kim Jong-Un.
Since California is within range and directly threatened by North Korea’s nuclear weapons, shouldn’t Jerry Brown be attending those talks? But California doesn’t possess a nuclear arsenal– or do we? What about the decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the threat to withdraw support for Palestinian refugees unless they toe the line? Should Jerry clear some time on his schedule? It was a dramatic moment when all but a handful of nations in the UN voted to condemn the Jerusalem decision: isolating the US from former friends and allies in the Middle East, Asia and Europe must be the guiding principle of this Administration. By so diminishing the international stature of the United States, Trump has increased the leadership role of California.
Should California secede from the Union, aside from the dubious legality of such a move? The actions of the Trump Administration make it look as though the Union is seceding from California (as it is from the rest of the world)! But despite that, I would argue against secession. Spoiler alert: Even in science fiction, forming a separate nation is fraught with unforeseen consequences. In Fourth World Nation, the second book in the Fourth World Series, the Martian colonies declare their independence from Earth. Here’s an excerpt:
When the applause finally stopped, Ran began by addressing Khalmed Salman. “Superintendent Salman, you represent the Pan-World Electorate in this historic transition. Do you have anything to say?”
Salman’s tone was stoic but contained something chilling, like a sharp blade buried just beneath the sand. “Yes, perhaps historic to you, but not to the PWE. By taking control of the colonies,” he said, his dark gaze sweeping the room, “you imagine that you have defeated us, but quite the opposite is true. We will withdraw all of our personnel and resources to Earth, and in our absence, the consequences of your actions will become painfully clear: the law and order you have taken for granted will disappear; your Resistance movement will break up into factions pitted against one another; the material supplies necessary to maintain function in the cities will run out. All remaining PWE ships will transport troops as well as any civilians who wish to depart for Earth. Within four weeks, however, you can expect that a new fleet of fully-manned warships will arrive to retake the colonies.”
Or at least retake Congress in the mid-term elections. On that optimistic note, I wish all my readers a happy 2018!