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No, California is not leaving the U.S.

March 14, 2018

Old NFO has written an interesting blog post about California. Specifically, it deals with the California secession movement, as well as the movements pushing to divide California into multiple states (Jefferson is one example). His words, which I highly recommend reading, “got me to thinking” (always a bad thing!).

I should mention that I am a big fan of states being able to do pretty much anything they wish, as long as the Constitution of the United States does not specifically forbid it (this goes along with my belief our federal government should only do that which the Constitution specifically allows, but that is a different discussion). That said, none of us live in Retired Mustang’s Ideal World. We live in the real world and in the real world, the Supreme Court has declared that states may only secede if “the States” agree.

Not gonna happen. Here’s  why

Political Reality

The most recent numbers I have found suggest the current Republican/Democratic split in the House of Representatives currently gives Republicans a 55.4% majority with 241 seats out of the 435 total (assuming no vacancies, though there are currently 4). The Democratic minority currently occupies 194 seats. If California is allowed to exit, the Republican majority would increase to 59.4%, or 227 out of 382 seats. The Democratic minority would decrease to 40.6% or 155 of those 382 seats.

The effect on the Senate would not be as profound, at least in terms of percentages. Currently, the Republicans hold 51 seats and the Democrats hold 49 (there are 2 independents who caucus with the Democrats). In the event of a Calexit, that 51% vs 49% split would change to a 52% vs 48% split.

Democrats would fight tooth and nail to avoid such a disruption in their power. In all fairness, were the percentage reversed, I have no doubt Republicans would fight just as hard.

Many states have a portion of the population that supports the secession of that state. According to Mother Jones, about a third of Californians support secession and a quarter of Americans support the idea that states should have the right to secede. Jim Gaines noted that the Southeast, Southwest and Rockies are the areas with the highest percentages of those supporting the idea of their various states seceding peacefully. That is nothing new, though. Secession has long been popular in some areas, even, as Gaines notes, before the Civil War. Still, more people oppose secession than support it, and I really doubt the idea would fly, politically, even absent the party line opposition such a proposal would encounter. It is my belief these sorts of things can have a bit of a domino effect, a sort of “huh, California seceded, maybe we here in the great state of Texas/Oklahoma/Wyoming/Arizona/Tennessee should seriously consider it, too” kind of  thing. That is intolerable, I submit, to both most politicians and to government in general.

As they pertain to this topic, government has a vested interest in (at least) two things. Those two things are maintaining order and maintaining power, not necessarily in that order. A successful bid for peaceful secession that triggered a chain of such movements would be perceived, rightly, as a threat to power and (possibly rightly) as a threat to order. With just those two things in mind, is anyone going to seriously argue the federal government, or the other states, would allow California, or maybe Texas, to secede?

Again, not gonna happen.

“Well,” you ask, “what about California splitting into multiple states and isn’t Texas allowed to divide into five states?”

Let’s address Texas, first. Maybe. That was part of the treaty that included the annexation of Texas. The question is, did Texas’ secession during the Civil War make that null and void? Some say yes, it did. Others disagree. I tend to be among those who disagree. My disagreement, like the agreement of others, is meaningless until and unless it is tested. It has, obviously, never been tested. Besides, even if Texas divides itself into chunks, those chunks become states in accordance with the Constitution, not with the desire of the “chunks” or the larger “pre-chunk” for them to be states. 

The same is true of California and any portion thereof that might be proposed as separate states. The Constitution is the “supreme law of the land,” not the desire of folks in Norcal and southern Oregon to do their own thing.

Aside from constitutional issues, we are still faced with partisan politics. Consider Puerto Rico. An American territory, there would be no division of an existing state necessary for it to become a state. Given its voting patterns, can anyone reasonably suggest every Republican in the Senate would not oppose its petition for statehood? Of course they would oppose it.

Let’s pretend that over time, the laws we have relating to the various American Indian tribes, the ones that are vestiges of 18th and 19th century paternalism, are repealed. There is a forensic accounting of the BIA, going back as far as possible, and that bureau is eliminated. All that is done, but the tribes retain possession of their various reservations. Now, the various tribes petition to have their reservations admitted as states. It is  unreasonable to suggest that would fly because of the way it would affect the current political balance of power.

If Texas were to draw boundaries representing five potential new states, is it reasonable to believe partisan politics would not come into play – that politicians would not look askance at the impact it would have on the balance of power between the two major parties?

Once again, the same is true of California.

None of this means it could absolutely not happen. We are, after all, discussing politics, where far weirder things have happened. I just don’t see it as very likely.

Let me encourage you, once more, to seriously consider the words of Old NFO.




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One Comment
  1. OldNFO permalink

    Thank you sir! However, ‘I’ for one, would be happy to see them go! 🙂 But you’re right, the Dems would have a hissy fit…

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