California’s reliably-blue votes gave Hillary Clinton a boost on election night, but they weren’t enough to carry her to the presidency. Now, Californians angered by Donald Trump’s win have proposed a ballot measure to begin the process of secession — and the referendum is receiving funding from investor and Hyperloop One co-founder Shervin Pishevar.
The movement for California’s independence is being billed as #Calexit, a play on the Brexit campaign that led to Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in June. One group that’s already been at work on the project, YesCalifornia.org, that lays out nine reasons for California to become its own nation — but Pishevar says his efforts will be documented on a yet-to-launch website, NewCalifornia.com.
The #Calexit proposal laid out by YesCalifornia follows in the footsteps of Texas secessionists who have long advocated for the Lone Star State to leave the union. Their movement picked up some momentum after President Obama’s reelection in 2012, when a petition for what we could now call #Texit earned more than 100,000 signatures and a response from the White House. (The tl;dr response was no. White House director of public engagement Jon Carson wrote that the founders enshrined in the Constitution “the right to change our national government through the power of the ballot” but not “a right to walk away from it.”) Still, some Texans continue to propose secession to this day.
The irony of Silicon Valley liberals proposing a California independence movement after they routinely mocked Texas’ petition to leave isn’t lost here, and Tim Draper’s plan to split California into six states in 2014 was also deeply criticized. But California’s economic power — the state is regularly ranked as the sixth-largest economy in the world, but cost-of-living adjustments render it eleventh — means that #Calexit could be economically feasible.
Pishevar has characterized his movement as a “temporary withdrawal” rather than a permanent exit. Rather than forming a new nation, his plan hinges on using California’s economic contributions — which are in no small part fueled by Silicon Valley companies — as leverage to force political change. “Removing Electoral College would be one of the changes needed,” Pishevar tweeted. “Small states with little diversity shouldn’t determine Presidency.”
“As Madison affirmed there is an extraconstitutional right to rebel if there is oppression. I believe those conditions of oppression have been met through systemic problems that persist in America and that the election of Trump is a symptom of those system problems. If California votes to become a New California and the rest of the states affirm it then it would legally stand,” Pishevar told TechCrunch.
YesCalifornia lays out the hypothetical legal framework for its exit: first a measure on the 2018 ballot would need the approval of California voters. Then, movement organizers envision seeking the consent of the other states, a move they believe is laid out in Texas v. White, an 1868 Supreme Court case that found states could only leave “through revolution or through consent of the States.” Since YesCalifornia explicitly bills itself as a “nonviolent campaign,” that means revolution is out of the picture.
The legal legwork required means we probably won’t be seeing a #Calexit. Even if California decides it’s a good idea, the rest of the country isn’t likely to be too pleased about losing access to California’s economy. Still, some Californians are all too happy to leave:
Additional reporting by Jon Shieber. This story has been updated to clarify that YesCalifornia is not affiliated with Shervin Pishevar.