I’m seeing people online talking about CalExit, a proposal by which California leaves the USA and strikes out on it’s own. This has come up because Californians feel frustrated by the Electoral College, but it’s also got the weight of tech companies behind it.
The Electoral College does reduce the importance of people’s votes when electing the president. This is especially true for Californians. However, there are other solutions aside from declaring independence. One doesn’t even need to amend the constitution. There is a proposal in place to switch to the popular vote which is enactable on the state level. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would not do away with the college, but they would switch to merely formalising the popular vote. This seems easier to arrange than independence and would solve many of the grievances people have this week.
Californians can also see several other reasons for independence, largely based on the idea that we are weighted down by the rest of the US. This might be true economically, but we should take a look at where California is politically. It’s at the vanguard of the US. We, collectively, are just as stupid as the rest of country. But we’re stupid first. Californians have already had a go at electing a right wing media personality with poor politics and inadequate experience. Twice. Ronald Reagan was a disaster who took our schools from best in the country to, well, …lower property taxes for people who don’t move often, yay? And then the governator, who was better than people feared, but actually still terrible.
California had it’s demographic shift to being majority non-white several years ago and had it’s hateful freakout at the time. Pete Wilson was elected, proposition 187 passed, and the state set out to make migrants as miserable as possible. One of Wilson’s first orders was to deny prenatal care to migrant women, thus increasing birth defects in new born american citizens. That administration, voted in by Californians, vindictively spread misery wherever possible. And then white people were in the minority anyway and the sky didn’t fall. Many white people just got used to it. To the extent that California is now less racist than other parts of the US, it’s only because we’ve been through the other side of demographic shifts that cause racist whites to suddenly become extra-terrible.
Indeed, California may be done with it’s demographic shift, but it’s still got far rightists. The largest KKK membership in the entire US was in San Bernadito county. The state has the same urban/rural divide as everywhere else. That incident a few months ago with fascist stabbings was in Sacramento. Leaving the union will not make us safe from the fascists in our own borders.
But let’s talk about what succession would actually look like. California is the most populous state, with a large economy, tons of industry, including tech and Hollywood, it has seven of the US’s ten largest cities, at least one major shipping port and a whole lot of military bases, R&D and federal stuff, including Edwards Airforce Base (where the Space Shuttle used to land), and the NASA Ames Research Center. California is dismissed by east coasters as quaint or whatever, but they would sure miss us if we were gone, and not just because we grow all their almonds and avocados. Which is exactly why they’re not going to invite us to leave.
California: I’d like to secede now please.
Red states: That’s unpatriotic. And besides, we didn’t get to. Keep sending us porn and taxes.
Blue states: We empathise with you, but no. We need you.
There’s a reason there’s an even number of states in the two party system and why Hawaii and Alaska joined around the same time. If we leave, that’s one less blue state, with a massive number of representatives. Our fellow blues will not want to lose us. And the reds want the stuff we make and grow and would resent us for seceding where they failed.
So what next? Another civil war? Nobody wants to leave that badly.
There is, however, another way. Tech companies want to leave because they have visions of some sort of libertarian utopia. Where they are freed from regulation, but somebody competent is planning things so that the lights stay on. These ideas are mutually exclusive, unless we just give control of everything to google. The tech bro vision for the future of California is self-driving google buses taking rich people around, while poor people conveniently vanish. There’s other differences and issues this is papering over, but the tech companies could actually bring about Californian independence.
However much facebook wishes to deny it, it was them that elected Trump (and it’s them who have a convenient list of everybody’s race, religion and political views, should the government ever ask to see it). Their filtering algorithm separated people into red and blue milieus, so people on both sides never saw each other’s posts and a whole lot of untrue news stories got passed around. Pro-Trump stories got more clicks, so actual cottage industries sprung up writing fake pro-Trump news. This was monetised, thanks to Google’s advertising program, which also doesn’t care if it’s sat next to complete shit, as long as it’s getting eyeballs. Both platforms, desperate for viewers, let utter trash proliferate.
So how would facebook give us independence? The same way it gave us Trump. Only via constitutional amendment.
Blue facebook: The amendment is actually a Russian plot. We need California.
Red facebook: California gives us nothing but homosexuals, tofu, and pron. They’re evil. We would be better off if those Satan-worshippers were all barred from the US entirely.
And, because there are a lot of red states, even if they aren’t very populous, they would pass the required referendums for an amendment letting us go. But at the expense of LGBT people, sex workers, religious minorities, vegetarians and everyone else who gets othered, not just in California. It would make the country an uglier place than it already is.
And now, hugely demonised, we have our independence and have lots of almonds and no currency or trade agreements. Since this is a Silicon Valley plot, we can get bitcoin and learn to love instability. But what about freedom of movement? Since we’re evil incarnate, we’re not going to be allowed just to hop across borders. Want to go to New York? Better get a visa.
Indeed, let’s talk trade deals. Like Britain, we won’t even be members of the WTO. It can take years to join. NAFTA is probably out, due to not only us being evil, but Canada wanting to discourage Quebec from following our lead. I could imagine getting a good deal with the country that ruled us until 1848. Mexico might demand freedom of movement. I would be 100% ok with this, but it’s a very different future than the one tech bros are envisioning.
Also, remember all that US military stuff? The US government might want to be compensated for it’s property loss. So it would still be several years of sending them our taxes. We could try to do without any military stuff, but as we’re in range of North Korea’s nuclear missiles, we probably won’t. Indeed, since we’ve got google, who loves automated solutions, we’d be in grave danger of building killer robots. These would be drones, with weapons, that act without direct operator control. There’s a push to ban them by treaty in the UN, but we wouldn’t be signed on to it. This is one part of the tech bro future that I’d rather avoid, completely.
California is also not water independent, so we’d need to either buy water from Nevada or let Los Angeles go. Indeed, climate change may force that anyway. Every place on earth is dependant on water and climate, but this is especially clear in California.
The Trump future is terrifying, but getting out via amendment will take years and it would probably be too late by then. Getting out by revolutionary action is also a scary thought. Neither is showing any solidarity with people in other states who also need to be safe from fascism. And all of it ignores that facebook and google, the most emblematic software companies of silicon valley, are not victims of fascism as much as they are the platforms which allow it to flourish. And the data repositories which will allow it to achieve it’s ugliest aims.