- - Monday, August 7, 2017


If at first you don’t succeed, secede. That’s the latest message from California, where the idea of breaking up with the United States is the current rage. With Donald Trump in the White House attempting to “make America great again,” the idea of returning to an era of freedom, faith and family is as antithetical to the cool crowd as a blue-light special at Kmart. The farther the Left Coast travels down the road toward “Calexit,” the harder the climb back into the good graces of Americans for whom California is not as cool as it once was.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra has blessed the attempt by left-wing secessionists to open a petition drive seeking the 585,000 signatures required to place a secession measure on the 2018 California ballot. An earlier petition in April failed, the new one calls for a more “measured” approach, including the formation of a commission to plot California’s drive for independence and a rewrite of the state’s constitution to leave out the poetic part about being inseparable from the union.

Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, bolstered the cause of secession, intentionally or not, by championing policies on international issues that clash with those of the United States. When President Trump announced in June that the United States would leave the Paris Climate accord, Mr. Brown hurried to the G20 conference in Germany to advertise his own climate summit next year in San Francisco: “We in California and in states all across America believe it’s time to act,” he said. “It’s time to join together, and that’s why at this Climate Action Summit we’re going to get it done.”

Calexit, a word coined to mimic Britain’s successful “Brexit” vote to leave the European Union a year ago, is mostly a reaction to the appeal elsewhere of Donald Trump. But rather than simply resist, the secessionists want to collect their toys — and their state — and go home. Or stay at home, or whatever. Americans shouldn’t be surprised. California is, after all, the place where fantasy flourishes.

The path to divorce is fraught with unsuspected danger, however. Though there’s no Abraham Lincoln standing by to keep the union undamaged, it may be useful for California to remember, if Californians have heard about it, that the nation fought a very uncivil war a century and a half ago over secession. As the historically ignorant pull down statues of the Confederate heroes of the South they despise, some Californians want to try again.

Californians are not the first modern Americans to tempt the wrath of Washington with loose talk of taking a hike. Texas, which might actually have a constitutional case for secession, dabbled with the idea of secession during the Obama administration, and a petition pulling in 125,000 signatures said the departure of Texas would “protect the original ideas and beliefs of our founding fathers which are no longer being reflected by the federal government.” A poll as late as last year found 26 percent of Texans eager to go it alone.

Some Californians might come to regret their impetuous initiative. Donald Trump won’t be president beyond January 2025, if that long. While the hotheads strain to break with the United States, California’s new Sen. Kamala Harris is clearly angling to succeed him. A successful Calexit could eliminate her chance to make over the entire nation in an image that Barack Obama might envy. Southerners have cried for more than a hundred years that “the South rise again.” Who would have guessed the secessionists would attempt it in California?

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