California residents take pride in their cities and states out of a mix of disgust over national affairs. They are proud of California’s response to President Donald Trump’s executive orders. The state fights against legislation that would withhold funding from sanctuary cities. Identifying less with national pride and more with state and local pride could help spark more local engagement and activism, which would benefit California as a whole.
This state pride is clearly demonstrated through the Yes California Independence Campaign, which advocates for Californian independence from the United States. The campaign recently received permission to begin gathering signatures to get the initiative on the 2018 ballot. The Yes California campaign has been around for a few years, but gained momentum after this year’s presidential election — and rightfully so. Californians are realizing that our nation’s leadership doesn’t match their values, causing them to identify more strongly with their state than their country.
Of course, a full-on secession would not be realistic or desirable. Becoming a country would be a logistical nightmare, and even if the initiative passed, it might not be in time to escape a Trump presidency. Under the current plans, California residents would vote for their independence in the spring of 2019. By the time residents vote on their independence, we could possibly have a new president, since Trump’s term ends in 2020.
Whether or not Californians want to vote for their independence, they are stuck in the United States of America, at least for most of Trump’s first term. Applying the same California pride that drove calls for secession to a heightened interest in local issues would allow the state to make the most of a bad situation. Secession isn’t the best option for California, but the idea of increased state pride is on the right track.
While secession is an extreme example of state pride, the frustration of those who buy into Calexit is understandable. Trump lost California by over 4 million votes. Millions of Californians did not vote for — and do not agree with — our current administration. This ideological difference is reflected throughout the state’s strong commitment to attacking climate change and defending undocumented immigrants, even as Trump signs executive orders against these very acts.
The heightened interest in Calexit points to a larger trend: Californians are frustrated and want to take action. However, if California residents are so turned off by national politics, they can increase their involvement in local and state politics instead. Voter turnout in L.A. city elections is notoriously low; residents can directly influence policies taking shape around them by pouring their heightened local pride into local elections.
Maybe California does need to focus on itself for a while — but it can do this while remaining a state. For individuals, this means grassroots campaigning, getting involved with local government and volunteering with nonprofits. California can spend the next four years improving from within, setting an example for other states.
In Gov. Jerry Brown’s State of the State Address, he noted that California often serves as a model for the nation. We can spend the next four years doing what we can to perfect this model, and hopefully, by the next administration, other states and national leaders will be willing to give our model a try.
While secession and successive formation of California the country may be an extreme act of state pride, these same feelings can be harnessed to affect positive change, such as increased civic engagement. That would certainly be a win for all residents of the state — or future nation — of California.
Erin Rode is a junior majoring in journalism and political science. “Point/Counterpoint” runs Wednesdays.