A year or so ago a liberal friend of mine implied that I was a right-wing kook and crypto-racist for even broaching the idea of disaffected states one day seeking a path out of the Union.
Just this weekend, though, none other than the chief legal officer of the nation’s largest state, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, offered a remarkably tepid response regarding California’s continued formal ties with the American Union.
“California is the economic engine of the United States of America, we on our own, as a state, could be the sixth economic power in the world,” Becerra stated yesterday in a Fox News Sunday interview.
“The U.S. needs California as much as I believe California needs to be part of the United States.”
Talk about a full-throated endorsement of American unity! It sounded to me more like a Catalan official affirming unity with Spain.
If Bercerra’s statements aren’t intriguing enough, consider the yawning apathy all of this California separatist talk has generated in the nation’s broad red-state hinterland. More than one friend of mine has stated they they would stand at the Nevada border happily waving off a new California Republic.
I think that goes for a lot of us here in the red heartland. If our experience with rising levels of divorce over the past 50 years has driven home one thing, it’s that acrimonious marriages are better off terminated. And, frankly, these federal bonds, which Lincoln extolled as “mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land,” seem increasingly and irreparably frayed.
America is coming to resemble a bad marriage, marked increasingly by acrimony and recrimination.
And all of this is likely to get even more complicated. Indeed, political activist and former presidential Chief of Staff Stephen Bannon is right to compare this growing secessionist sentiment in California with the South Carolina nullification crisis of the 1830’s.
Bannon recently argued that if the federal government fails to stop California’s sanctuary state efforts, California’s leftist leaders “are going to try to secede from the union” in the next decade to 15 years.
While we may have thought this vexing issue was settled more than 150 years ago, California may be serving up a 2.0 version of secession. We really seem to be closing a very wide and contentious historical circle. And contrary to my liberal friend’s fulminating, I really think that California may be the portent of a cascading effect among several states.
California presents this union with a special set of challenges- it arguably always has. We’re talking about a state with several unique characteristics: for starters, its longstanding geographical separation from the other major population centers of the United States and its location on the Pacific Rim, facing the region of the world where the overwhelming bulk of global economic growth is likely to occur over the next few decades. Add to that California’s demographic transformation, one factor among many driving its return to its historical legacy as a region intimately linked with the cultural and economic the fortunes of Mexico and Latin America.
Under the circumstances, should we be surprised that California is evolving its own views of law and governance and that it’s begun to strain at its federal leash?
If California wants to go at some point, let it go peacefully. And that goes for any other state where a significant segment of the population has concluded that they are better off separate from than a part of the American Union.
Freedom of association should characterize our federal relations every bit as much as it should other facets of American life. It is integrally bound up with living in a free society.