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.

  1. What do you think is the likelihood of #Calexit occurring?
  2. Should the US Government use military force to prevent secession?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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.  


  1. Actually, I think the frontier outposts were affected as troops were recalled to fight for both the North and the South.

    As for Calexit, it’s really going nowhere at least as long as Jerry Brown is willing to call President Trump for more aid for the floods and dam collapses that his state’s policies have created. Can you imagine Jerry Brown as the leader of the Blue Confederacy of California, Oregon, and Washington? The East Coast might have Andrew Cuomo or Bill De Blasio. Any of them would have made ol’ Jefferson Davis look competent.

  2. I just finished reading “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” again, so I’ve been feeling awfully radical lately.

    I’m not sure America would tolerate military action to bring back a rogue state. Attitudes about war have changed a lot. People get outraged by civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria – people on the other side of the world that don’t share our culture. Now imagine all that collateral damage is happening in a city where a hundred thousand grandmothers of US citizens reside. Does fighter pilot Dudley-Do-Right go through with his bombing run of the Sacramento state capitol building where his cousin’s niece works as a paige, or does he land his plane at the nearest air guard base and defect?

    Personally, I believe in the words of the Declaration of Independence and think states should be able to legally go their separate ways.

  3. This dovetails nicely with my theory. I don’t think the USA would want a civil war, it would be much wiser to try and bargain California’s status to sovereign territory, or to make a transition period for California so they would hopefully come back after seeing the hurdles to sovergainty.

    California has the most capacity to be an indepent state of any in the union. California has the only REAL economy in the us rn. The five largest tech companies make up a THIRD of the entire us gdp. California is a breadbasket that can be almost entirely self sufficient. They have very high profile military bases to repurpose; like Pendleton which is an enormous chunk of sea coast. California would eliminate the federal government’s biggest source of income with the flick of a pen.

    The us population would immediately lose 40 million citizens and the federal government’s largest tax contributor. And yes, states like Washington and Oregon would leave next because they are politically aligned and benefit more from commerce w California than the United States.

    Los Angeles depends on SOME water from Nevada but California as a whole doesn’t rely on outside resources for water.

    To put it simply, if California left it would be wiser to verbally dissuade them than to fight them.

  4. Considering that the U.S. Government owns 47% of the land in California, I doubt Californians would be able to afford a buy out. California would also be devastated by the mass exodus of people and capital to the remaining 49. It would have to negotiate a defense agreement with the U.S., which would cost California dearly, or otherwise build a brand new military from scratch, which would also cost it dearly. The state would promptly enact a liberal wet dream agenda, and fiscally, would quickly spiral out of control. There is simply no. way. the state could afford it, and anyone who thinks California would come out of this ahead is smoking too much of a substance that it would promptly legalize.

  5. 1. What do you think is the likelihood of #Calexit occurring?
    Exceedingly low… lower than the the possibility that media star /business tycoon could be elected president.

    2.Should the US Government use military force to prevent secession?
    Ill hve to say, no. unless the new federal forces of the nation of California attacked the US forces at Pendeltion or 29 plams Vandenburg , March or China lake. Only allow the Counties that voted to cede go, the coastal counties go the inland counties most likely would vote to stay. Unless there was actual violence against citizens enmass or attack of federal us faculties, id say no… just let it go…

    3. 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?
    Establish ties. Open up discussions on trade and immigration. be polite, wish them luck Tell China to keep out. its not their concern. publicly disagree with their position as a independent nation, but relent to the reality. declare that they are in rebellion, but you plan on working out a peaceful solution to bring them back, in the mean time lets jsut act nice and civilized…publicly
    In negotiations and meeting break it off in their ass. make them pay thought the nose for water and power., this is assuming that only the counties that voted, for ceding are entirety of this new nation. run active patrols out of the major ports and Naval bases, do safety inspections routinely. maybe consider drooping the copyrights of all business in Calif.. LOl. offer sanctuary to refugees, after they been vetted. Start up a radio/TV/website Free California. start phyops with in Calif. for various ends. spread rumors to mexico that the new Calif is open for any and all Mexicans to come live and receive benefits. start phyOps to tell the asian community that they would be abandoned by the majority Hispanic population and sidelined. Dittio with the Black communities. run a proactive and armed boarder patrol… Sideline any UN interference. figure some way to keep China out…….>>?? and then Profit!

    4.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?

    as The CPR
    Invite China in weeks before the vote is taken. so tht Chinese forces are on the ground the day the session goes into effect.
    cut trade deal with them and rest of the pacific rim.
    Push for UN vote for admission and call a security council vote : to one condemn the old USA, get nationhood status. and a UN peacekeeper force.
    Start fracking and Drilling.
    Find the best forgers and print Us 100’s in bulk. print a new currency for the new nation.back it with real assets.
    sell primeland for development orffer mining deals..
    contact all internet firms ,and recruit them to prepare for a cyber war. use low level attacks that can be officially denied to upset the states. start a PR war. enlist the Hollywood elite, and media firms to run it.
    Encourage Mexico to swarm the boarder with migrants. get the migrant population of Arz New mex and Texas to go bananas and be proactive in protests.
    Encourage Hawaii, Oregon and Washington to do the same. and start campaigns in Nevada new mex and ariz.
    Build new powerplants and desalination plants.
    Build a scratch force of labor battalions with Mexican immigrants. pick the best for law enforcement military duties.
    actively try to prevent any hostal action across the border or against fedGov military faculties, offer to pay for such, as they leave.

    … more stuff that i cant think off now.

    As the USA:

    Send Seals from Cornado to capture the leadership.
    Precision strikes with cyber war and infiltration on the power grid, and water supplies.
    start Rumor the the Marines are gonna invade.
    convince the Mexicans to flood into South Calif. stress the system, start internal conflicts
    Blockade the ports, interdict all air travel.
    Buy shit loads of cocaine and weed and air drop it over various neighborhoods.
    Break the traffic control system, and drop some freeway overpasses..

    my mind is going blank now..

    5. 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?

    Break the former ceeded counties into 2 or more states, no check territories with no representation in congress other than observers. allow nonvoting senators to be elected. restore power. and begin a program to remove the leadership from all possibility of being involved in politics.
    encourage a mass migration south of anyone who doesn’t want to be part of these new states….
    What do you do with pockets of resistors or holdouts?..offer buyouts and transport to mexico or canada?
    and of course a very slow rebuilding project..

  6. It would be more of a gentle negotiation. Silicon Valley has the keys to trump’s precious, and from the obama administration forward, his revolving door policy shaped government policy. America’s cyber infrastructure is weak. California’s is strong. California pretty much holds the keys to america’s cyber security.

    If king orange and Steve *hic* bannon pulled the revocation of Silicon Valley’s patents and business licenses, Silicon Valley could pretty much wipe out the internet single handedly for America. America doesn’t have a keg to stand on because they allow china to register businesses and import goods and they are an enemy. At least a highly potential threat.

    As for foreign government intervention it would be ridiculous for America to declare war over it. They’d lose membership in NATO and the United Nations if they fought potentially. Yeah yeah go it alone blah blah, but the reality is those organizations make a seat at the table for trade agreements which trump cannot lose if he’s worried about American jobs.

    Osyops with Mexico would also fail. California with a potential pact with Mexico is highly agreeable to Mexico, California, and American manufacturers who are moving jobs to Mexico. It would open a whole new category of business, such as liaisons, infrastructure, oversight, web modernization etc.

    The simple and sad fact is America would be fucked. We are not a self sufficient nation, but California is closer to it than any other state in the union.

    I agree with you about odds, but consider this. The only thing that’s prevented California from being the state it wants to be, more similar to Sweden than Minnesota is the overreach of the Feds and more specifically the republicans spite towards California.

    The constitution relinquishes the power to make and amend laws to the states, and the lack of follow through on that document gives California a healthy legal foundation for its secession.

  7. Oh, not to make light of what I mentioned before. America would lose 33 percent of her GDP in one flick of the pen from Silicon Valley alone, not to mention other potential major losses from California industries outside NorCal. Think hard about that. That alone would sink america’s wealth index into that of nations like Italy that don’t even have a tenth of the population and land mass.

    Going Dirty Harry on California would only feel good fo 30 seconds.

  8. Bezos, cook, and google’s board could privately make the purchase of federal land by themselves.

  9. They couldn’t afford it even if they were able to liquidate the entirety of their assets for the current market value. California’s land is worth about $4T. Though the Feds own some very pricey real estate (think the Presidio, Rancho, Santa Monica Mountains), they also own some desolate places too, so let’s spot Cali a cool Trillion and say the value of Federal land is a mere $1T. Bezos is worth $63B, Cook $400M, Brin $36B, Page $16B, and the rest of Google’s 17-person board far less. None of that even comes close to $1T, even combined.

  10. You massively overestimate California’s importance. U.S. GDP is $18T, while California’s is (a mere lol) $2.2T. Even assuming no companies emigrate from California in a #Calexit, losing the Golden State’s GDP would push the U.S. down the GDP ranking to…….behind the European Union and still the world’s leading single-nation GDP by more than $5T. On the other hand, California would be just ahead of……Italy, and on par with India.

  11. OT, but thanks for the photo with the Mark Richards twin fin. Haven’t seen one in years. Lots of retro shapes have made their way back to today and this one does not get as much credit as it deserves. A trip back to the 80’s

  12. I don’t claim to know anything at all about surfboards, but I do know that General Lee would appreciate the length and volume of that one.

  13. I am not sure why they would need to buy the Feds out. The US citizens own the land, not the actual people in DC. The citizens who want to Calexit would just take their portion of our communal land with them. Same for military bases, etc.
    I imagine that any military personnel who want to move east would be more than covered by those who what to move to CA.
    I would move to “Cascadia” in a second if Calexit became a reality. Maybe not CA, but Oregon/Washington, depending on job prospects.


    You’re not taking into account the HEALTH of companies, which aside from the tech sector is pretty poor. The tech companies have stored their profits overseas and are ridiculously cash rich.

    The Italy thing is also wrong. As of 2015 California is officially worth more than France.

    You also negate the domino effect of a potential embargo by America. The American economy depends on Americans buying products that don’t take into account the foreign labor cost to make them. So, essentially you buy a ford part that cost 120 dollars which was a fair price when Americans were paid to do it, and then you cut the labor cost by 80 percent but keep the previous cost structure.

    This is a self defeating cultural trend that many on the right foolishly say “welp, it’s a free market!” You’d have to sing that tune to your grave because it’s not stopping.

    Otoh California has actually made attempts to retain businesses, keep companies here and up our own minimum wages. The industries here don’t have much fear of a diaspora caused by cheap labor because those industries need bright minds. Tech, entertainment wine making, alternative energy, tesla etc.

    If you believe that becoming the third largest economy behind the eu, while California would enter between five and six herself you’re just deluded and driven solely by the idea of sticking it to someone.

    That is one hell of a price to pay for a gotcha.

  15. I can’t believe this is even debatable. The U.S. Government owns the land, not “U.S. citizens”, which isn’t even a thing when it comes to property ownership. Perhaps you could say it is held in trust by the U.S. on behalf of its citizens, but it is not “communal land”. If California wants that land for its own nation, to have sole power to develop, tax, regulate, or otherwise exploit as its sees fit, it would have to pay for it.

  16. Oh darn, my statistics were a couple years old, you’re right. California would be #11 or 12 in the world ranking (not 5 or 6 as you say), while the U.S. would still be number 1.
    The embargo idea is certainly a possibility, but since we’re talking fiction anyways, it could just as easily not happen. We can make all sorts of hypotheticals about how things would play out and factor into our economic analysis, and they can cut both ways. So I keep it simple and look at the facts as we see them, and there is no argument. California is not “33%” of U.S. GDP, it is less than half that. It also couldn’t likely bear the cost of acquiring the land owned by the U.S. Government (at least 40% of its GDP just to buy the land). The state’s current debt is $118B, has unfunded pension liabilities of $800B, and ranks in the high forties among U.S. states for fiscal health as things stand today. Could California really take on the fiscal obligations needed to finance a #Calexit? Hell no.
    And wow, look at Pollyanna here about how great things are going in California. Companies and people are leaving California in droves. The fiscal and regulatory climate in California is terrible and getting worse. It’s one-party rule that would only be loosed further in a #Calexit.

  17. Why is that not up for debate? What’s the precedent?
    Let’s say, internationally. I don’t remember the individual republics having to buy their own land from the USSR. There were some agreements which allowed Russia to keep a base on the Black Sea, or the space launchpad, but no one was ransoming parkland.
    Unless you have some proof, this is just your wishful thinking.

  18. The undebatable aspect is that U.S. Government owns the land, not the people of California, nor some nebulous concept of “U.S. citizens” owning the land.
    Were California to leave the U.S. amicably and assume control of all this land, it would need to compensate the U.S. for its loss. Yosemite is as much mine as it is a U.S. citizen’s living in Fresno. Now this land transfer could and would likely be done as part of some broader deal, but the U.S. would still need to be compensated.
    USSR is different because that was a government that collapsed, and all authority devolved to the constituent states. In this case, the U.S. Government remains, while spinning off a separate country.

    This entire post and thread is wishful thinking. #Calexit will. never. happen. period.

  19. The USSR did not collapse in one event, the individual republics declared independence one by one. Your lack of historical perspective and personal wish to own part of California notwithstanding, there would be no compensation for land.
    I agree that this is a hypothetical, but lets see how Scotland does.

  20. “Lack of historical perspective”, lol, if you only knew.
    You can argue the definition of “event”, but the point is that the USSR dissolved completely and all political authority was devolved to the states. This is in contrast with a #Calexit scenario in which the U.S. would remain as-is, aside from California’s independence.
    There are also about a dozen other major differences that render your analogy moot, such as the fact that the constituent republics were already nominally independent led by a supranational party organization, the fact that there was an attempted coup, and the fact that the relationship between the USSR and constituent republics was oppressive.
    “Personal wish to own part of California”, that is also rich. There would absolutely be compensation for land. That property is owned by the U.S. and if you think the U.S. Government (and the people of the remaining U.S.) would just say “sure, here are the keys”, I’ve got a former soviet socialist republic to sell you.
    I agree that Scotland would be a more comparable test case, but I don’t really see the UK just saying “ok sure, you can just have this Trident base and a few of our jets and ships” without significant compensation.

  21. I’m not quite sure why “losing” Apple or other large tech companies in a Calexit would hurt the US very much. An example

    The Senate Homeland Security Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations laid out Apple’s tax planning in a May 20 report. The report concluded that Apple’s tax arrangements have nothing to do with its business. Even for a jaded tax lawyer used to hokey schemes to avoid taxation, Apple’s arrangements were surprising.

    Apple set up some Irish subsidiaries a mere four years after it was founded. Foreign sales, which account for 60% of Apple’s profits, are routed through these Irish subsidiaries and taxed nowhere. How is this possible, when the intellectual property that supports the value of Apple’s products is in the United States?

    Apple has an Irish holding company with no operations or employees at the top of its foreign operations. This company also serves as a group finance company. Apple Inc., the U.S. parent of the whole group, pays U.S. tax on the investment earnings of this company. Otherwise, the holding company pays no tax to any government, and has not paid tax for five years. It claims tax residence nowhere.

    Beneath the holding company is an Irish principal company that holds the contracts with Apple’s Chinese contract manufacturers and owns the inventory they produce. It also claims tax residence nowhere, despite having paid some tax to Ireland in recent years, but at rate far below the statutory rate. It and another Apple operating affiliate share the foreign rights to Apple’s U.S. based technology.

  22. Does anyone deny Apple has offshore money? Not even Cook has and the EU is going to roast Apple by taxing them, because whether the Irish like it now or not they are an EU member, subject to EU laws.

    Does Apple do most of its commerce internationally? Sure they do. It was a point I was going to add in here counter to the “we can shake a stick at California because we’re mighty” crowd.

    In all actually most of the larger tech companies rely on foreign commerce more than they do the states, so they’d have little to fear of an embargo. There’d probably be foreigners who found solidarity in those brands for not being American.

    The idea that if America said “we don’t need your iPhones” should California secede would be preposterous. I think a more likely reality is there’d be an emerging black market for those products if the government stamped her foot down about it.

  23. I think it only fair that they take their “fare share” of the national debt as well. Let’s see how the new country does saddled with $3 Trillion in debt from the get-go.

  24. Just so you know I am working on the comment editing feature. Those of us who are registered with the site have that ability, but you plebes who sign as guests don’t. It’s not an easy problem to solve and may require some comment system overhaul.

  25. I’m happy to register/sign up…looks like it’s asking me for a wordpress account which I do not have.

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