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.  

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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.


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… Read more »

Judge dredd, pro se

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.… Read more »

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… Read more »

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… Read more »

Judge dredd, pro se

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.… Read more »

Judge dredd, pro se

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.

Judge dredd, pro se

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

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.

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.


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


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.


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.

Judge dredd, pro se 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… Read more »

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.

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.… Read more »


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.

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… Read more »


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.

“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… Read more »


“Lack of historical perspective”, lol, if you only knew.



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… Read more »

Judge Dredd, Pro Se

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… Read more »


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.


fair…fare…sigh…still can’t edit posts…

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.


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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