California's Attempt to Exit Trump's America Is Officially Here

Anti-Trump protesters in L.A. on Nov. 12
Anti-Trump protesters in L.A. on Nov. 12
Brian Feinzimer/L.A. Weekly

It's a quixotic, arguably impossible dream: A group of Californians wants the state to declare independence from Trump's America. But even if California falls short of seceding, it might make many Golden State residents feel a little better just to go through the motions in the age of Trump.

The campaign to secede, organized by the Yes California Independence movement and dubbed #Calexit, now has the approval of the California Secretary of State to begin gathering signatures to put the matter before voters in November 2018. If 585,407 valid signatures are collected, voters will get to weigh in on secession at the polls.

According to the California Secretary of State's reading of the measure's language, Californians would be able to declare independence from the United States "if 50 percent of registered voters participate and 55 percent of those voting approve."

A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in December and January found that 32 percent of respondents are in favor of California seceding — up from 20 percent in 2015.

Of course, there are a few major hurdles. Organizers of #Calexit have raised zero cash, according to public records, but will need at least a few million dollars to get serious, professional signature-gathering off the ground and completed by July 25, which is the deadline to make the November 2018 ballot.

And even if Yes California Independence gets the cash, the signatures and the required votes in November, that doesn't mean California is free to walk away from the union. David A. Carrillo, executive director of Berkeley Law's California Constitution Center, points to the center's analysis of the prospects for secession, which argues that there is no secession authority granted in either the U.S. or California constitution.

The analysis also notes that Justice Antonin Scalia once wrote, "If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede."

We reached out to Yes California Independence organizers but did not hear back. On Friday they urged volunteers to download petitions and circulate them.

"Pundits laugh because historically it costs millions of dollars to accomplish this goal with paid signature gatherers," according to an email plea. "As a grassroots organization, our resources are limited but every dollar you contribute does help."


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