Following our first open thread with its inclusion of this opinion piece, I did learn from the readership that there is some interest in discussing #Calexit, the referendum proposal for California to secede from the United States.
Personally, I don’t take it very seriously. Even if they pass it and even if the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ends up failing to strike it down because they suck at their jobs and forget that SCOTUS already made it clear that secession is illegal a long time ago and even if Congress and the Trump Administration decided to let them do it, I still think California would face enormous obstacles that would prove disastrous in the end.
Not the least of which the likelihood that a significant number of the “red” inland counties of California would almost certainly choose to stay in the Union, leaving behind a rump, more coastal California that has little hope of maintaining the prosperity it enjoys as a state.
But so what? I think it’s a fun topic, especially since I’m both a Civil War buff and a guy who thinks invading California and breaking it up into two or three smaller states to permanently weaken the prospects of all future Democratic presidential candidates for the rest of time would be totally bitchin’.
Let’s say it comes to that. California has just seceded. They have seized all federal property located in the state and directed all US military service member and law enforcement agents who do not wish to defect to leave the state. Nobody has been harmed.
What happens next, if you’re Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump?
Well, the first thing to keep in mind is that the US Military now is nothing like it was in 1860. Instead of a tiny frontier force that was primarily engaged in minor operations with the Indians, the modern US Army is professional and battle-hardened. There isn’t going to be a five month long delay from the federal government as there was between South Carolina seceding and the First Battle of Bull Run.
Back then, the US government didn’t act because it couldn’t. It’s sort of funny, but the Regular Army of the Civil War era really didn’t do much. It continued its normal duties on the frontier as the volunteers and draftees fought the war. Lincoln had to rush to raise that volunteer army and the delay gave the Confederates time to prepare as well.
In 2017? I’d say we can get some mechanized infantry into Sacramento, declare martial law, place the governor under arrest, and blow up Barbara Streisand’s house in a matter of days. In all likelihood, a swift and sudden response would probably do the trick.
But what if it didn’t happen that way? What if Trump decided that a quick response might worsen the situation? What if a secessionist nuclear submarine captain announced that he was joining the new nation and would launch his missiles against Washington, DC if federal forces set one foot over the Nevada border? What then?
In those circumstances, perhaps Trump would consider adoption of a sort of Anaconda Plan. The ports of LA, San Diego, and San Francisco could be closed, enforced by a US Navy blockade. Fresh water sources, electricity, and other vital services from loyal states would be cut off. Given that California, like the Confederacy was, is heavily dependent on agriculture and exports, it couldn’t possibly take that long for its economy to collapse, could it?
Well, what if California convinced Washington, Oregon, and maybe even Nevada to secede and join it? Isolating one state of that size is hard enough. Now we’re talking about the entire Left Coast. What if the pro-Trump counties of California attempted to secede from California and were forcibly prevented from doing so and occupied by the CA National Guard? What if China, delighted with our problem, introduces a UN Security Resolution to declare that the US government’s actions against California are a violation of human rights and demands that a multi-national force intervene?
Does it mean war or should we just let them go? In the event that we let California secede, how should we manage that relationship?
There are plenty of possibilities, so let’s discuss it!
This is a Discourses post. There aren’t any right or wrong answers. This is (for now) a totally theoretical discussion.
Here are some good jumping-off questions. You don’t have to answer any of them, but you can use them to get started.
- What do you think is the likelihood of #Calexit occurring?
- Should the US Government use military force to prevent secession?
- If California peacefully seceded and was allowed to form a new nation, how would you like to move forward with it? Formal diplomatic relations with the US? A sort of hybrid in which our economic ties are maintained but the state has no electoral college votes? What exactly?
- What are some possible scenarios for waging a war between California and the US? Play either side. What do you do? If you’re the US team, do you try to separate the North from the South or would you separate the coast from the inland? How do you defend California from the most powerful nation on Earth and preserve its independence? Open war? Insurgency? Take the fight to the enemy and conquer Colorado to secure water rights?
- What happens when the crisis is resolved? What should be done with California if it gambles on secession and war and loses? What terms of surrender do you give them?
Note: We here at RVS do not endorse or support the violent overthrow of the United States Government. This discussion is purely academic.