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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 03 February 2017 > STATE OF RESISTANCE

STATE OF RESISTANCE

California is preparing to lead a national revolt against Donald Trump, fighting him on climate change, trade and that ridiculous wall. Gird your loins and pass the sunscreen

BEGAN with a tweet, as so much does these days. The first shot in the coming war was fired in a 140-character burst by Shervin Pishevar, a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley. “If Trump wins I am announcing and funding a legitimate campaign for California to become its own nation,” said the first in a volley of tweets by the Iranian-American technology investor. “As 6th largest economy in world,” he said three tweets later, “economic engine of nation, provider of a large % of federal budget, California carries a lot of weight.”

This call to arms was retweeted thousands of times in those bewildering first hours of the Age of Trump. By the next morning, the movement for California to secede from the United States had made national headlines, with Pishevar anointed the movement’s leader. It even had a name, Calexit, an echo of the Brexit movement, which will eventually cleave Great Britain from the European Union. The nativist tone of Brexit foreshadowed the xenophobia of Donald Trump. CalExit is a kind of nativism too, except it’s fundamentally sunny in disposition—a Brexit for American liberals much more closely aligned with Western Europe than West Virginia.

Unrelated to Pishevar’s tweetstorm was a Sacramento rally held the day after the election (but planned long before) by Yes California, a secession group run by a young man from San Diego named Louis Marinelli. Marinelli, 29, wants to use California’s ballot measure process to have his fellow citizens vote for secession, much as they have voted to ban plastic bags and legalize recreational marijuana. Unlike Pishevar, whose secessionary tweets were plainly fired off in a fit of frustration, Marinelli has been long at work on this issue and will eagerly lay out his reasoning to anyone willing to listen.

“America is a sinking ship, and the strongest position for California to take is one on its own lifeboat setting its own course forward,” he tells me. “A strong California holding its ground and attempting to influence the decisions of those in Washing-ton at the helm of this sinking ship will find itself at the bottom of the ocean with them.”

Even if the majority of Californians vote for Marinelli’s proposal, peaceful secession from the United States would be nearly impossible, says just about everyone with a knowledge of our federalized system. Pishevar seems to have decided as much; in the days following the election, he backed away from his call for secession. Once ringing with secessionary bravado, his Twitter feed is now protected. A press representative tells me Pishevar wasn’t going to discuss the issue.

Yet there are substantive differences between California and the rest of the nation, a contrast that will only become sharper over the next four years. The Rust Belt gloom that helped elect Trump feels so distant from the Left Coast that it may as well be an abstraction. The America you see from the Sierra Nevada foothills, the endlessly fertile farmlands south of Sacramento and the coastal ranges of Santa Barbara is really a very good place to live: efficient, inclusive, optimistic—America 2.0. Back when the notion of a President Trump still seemed preposterous, the state’s Democratic governor, the gruff Jerry Brown, told a group of labor leaders in Sacramento, “If Trump were ever elected, we’d have to build a wall around California to defend ourselves from the rest of this country.” Brown quickly added that he was joking, but we all know what Freud said about the honesty that humor frequently conceals.

It’s true that Californians’ love of their state can blind them. The famously beneficent West Coast sunshine hasn’t been distributed evenly across the land; California’s most persistent problems include high unemployment in the desert along the Mexican border and in the rugged, rural northlands, as well as a growing wealth gap along the prosperous coast, especially in the Bay Area, which competes with New York City as the most expensive place to live in the nation. The opioid crisis along the Oregon border is as serious as in the Midwest; the state’s eternally underfunded public schools routinely rank as some of the country’s worst, along with those of the Deep South.

“ AMERICA IS A SINKING SHIP; THE STRONGEST POSITION FOR CALIFORNIA TO TAKE IS ONE ON ITS OWN LIFEBOAT.”

MI CASA, SUE CASA: San Francisco officials say it will remain a sanctuary city, despite Trump’s call to end the practice and his threat to cut off federal dollars to municipalities that defy him.
JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY
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STATE OF RESISTANCE California is preparing to lead a national revolt against Donald Trump, fighting him on climate change, trade and that ridiculous wall. Gird your loins and pass the sunscreen.
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