In 2002, the Sacramento Bee Columnist Peter Schrag had the following to say about the idea of
California becoming a separate nation:
California secedes -- A midwinter night's dream
By Peter Schrag -- Bee Columnist - (Published December 23, 2002)
It began as no more than a gesture of protest, when a group of California Democrats, led by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, put on the November 2004 ballot the California Dignity Initiative, a measure calling on the state's congressional delegation to renegotiate California's relationship to the Union.
The precipitating event was the Interior Department decision to authorize exploratory oil drilling in Yosemite National Park: The intent of the initiative was just to draw Washington's attention to its mistreatment of the Golden State.
But by fall 2006, California, the world's sixth-largest economy, was an independent nation, Pelosi was running for president and Boxer was slated to become California's ambassador to the United Nations.
In the Bay Area, the Boxer-Pelosi measure had won by a margin of 80 percentage points to 20 percentage points. But a lot of conservatives, drawn by the campaign slogan "No More IRS," also voted for it, and so it passed overwhelmingly. By then, congressional Republicans, led by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, had told California to go fly a kite, and the gesture began to gather irresistible momentum. "They burn the damn gas out there," DeLay said. "Why the hell shouldn't they help produce it?"
What became known as the "Rape of Yosemite," of course, was only the latest of the insults. By the time of the vote, the Public Policy Institute of California had issued a half-dozen studies showing that California was sending between $17 billion and $40 billion a year more to Washington in taxes than it was getting back in federal contracts, grants and services.
The feds weren't even willing to pay for the anti-terrorism costs of California's law enforcement agencies.
The difference in what Californians pay and what they get would be more than enough to close the state's yawning budget deficit, provide for California's national defense -- mostly through tighter protection of key California facilities and landmarks -- and still promise an overall tax cut for most Californians.
Meanwhile, the most conservative anti-tax states in the Union -- Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Georgia, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Texas -- were getting far more than their share from Washington. It was also their votes that carried the Productive Americans Act, abolishing all federal taxes on those making more than $10 million a year.
As expected, the California Dignity Initiative campaign was written off by national pundits as another crazy California stunt and by GOP spokesmen as a re-election ploy by a couple of beyond-the-fringe San Francisco Democrats.
But Pelosi had no opposition in her 2004 congressional campaign and, in what amounted to the same thing, Boxer's opponent was Shawn Steel, the former chairman of the state GOP, who had threatened recall campaigns against any Republican who voted for a tax increase to close the state's budget deficit.
Continuing a long California GOP tradition, the conservative Steel had easily beaten moderate Tom Campbell, whom he dubbed "California's Harold Stassen," in the March primary, before being obliterated himself.
The fall campaign, however, did focus Californians' attention on their grievances: the government's campaign to override the state's auto emission laws; the Justice Department's crackdown on medicinal pot smokers and their suppliers, who of course were operating legally under Proposition 215; the renewed federal oil leases off the Santa Barbara coast; and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's contemptuous disregard of the state's pleas for refunds from price-gouging gas and electricity suppliers.
The surprise was how willing Congress and the administration were to let California go.
In his successful re-election campaign in 2004, President Bush, quoting Lincoln, had promised to preserve the Union. But once he won, White House political affairs director Karl Rove and other Republican strategists realized that without California's votes and the money from Hollywood liberals, the GOP could dominate national affairs indefinitely. By then, of course, it was clear that the most likely candidate in 2008 would be the president's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida.
California's departure would almost certainly lead to a Supreme Court that would overturn Roe vs. Wade and the decisions restricting school prayer, and to a new reading of the Second Amendment barring any state law restricting the right to carry guns.
Congressional liberals such as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Ted Kennedy objected vehemently. They understood that California's secession would leave them even more powerless than they had been in 2002-2004.
But representatives from the Southern and Mountain states, who didn't know or didn't care how much they lived off the Golden State's wealth, were happy to be rid of tree-hugging California, where they banned automatic weapons, the schools taught homosexuality and the courts erased God from the Pledge of Allegiance.
Of course, it took a lot of negotiating -- about water rights, about what the feds claimed was California's share of the national debt, about continental security and jurisdiction over the state's remaining military bases. But once Washington realized there was no way California could be kept out of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group or NAFTA, the Bear Flag nation was born.
Of course, Schrag was being tongue-in-cheek in 2002, or was he? After all, he listed many of the long list of issues between most Californians and the folks represented
by President Bush. This is not an issue so vague that pointed humor has been avoided. Consider the following 2002 web site (click on all the links on the right, particularly the Will Durst
Midterm election makes case for secession The United State of California
Click on the graphic above to help California secede.
In California, 6.5 million of the voters didn't vote to elect me president.
of California, the U.S. is moving in the wrong direction--towards
preemptive war, attacks on reproductive freedom, massive deficits,
restrictions of civil liberties, environmental rollbacks and free reign
for corrupt corporations.
state stands alone. California resisted the rightwing zeitgeist which
swept the rest of the nation and elected a straight democratic ticket,
affirming the state's commitment to the environment, a woman's right
to choose, equal rights under the law, and world peace.
succeeding so we're seceding. Don't move to Canada. Move to the United
State of California. A new nation dedicated to preserving the American
way of life.
So how did things change by 2004? Consider this Patt Morrison September 29, 2004 (before the Presidential election!) column in the Los Angeles
PATT MORRISON And Arnold Could Be Its President ...
September 29, 2004
California, here we go. Again.
For 25 glorious days in the summer of 1846, the Bear Flag flew over an independent nation, the California Republic. The time has come once more to "dissolve the political bands" that bind, specifically the ones that tether us to the United States like a milk cow to a Conestoga wagon. The time has come to make California a republic again.
Enough people to populate a Gold Rush town have told me that if Nov. 2 results in another four years of tyranny Texas-style, they'll be scouting for somewhere else to live. Fourscore and some years ago, the Hemingway/Fitzgerald crowd fled these shores to be able to drink legally. Now people are convinced they'll have to flee these shores to be able to think legally. Ladies, gentlemen — stop packing. The California Republic is the answer, the way to live abroad with all the comforts of home.
We've given this statehood business a good shot — 154 years. But it just isn't working out. Only this week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill of surrender, restoring the state's primary election to June. We Californians had moved it to March in a desperate attempt to become as big a player in presidential primaries as, oh, South Carolina. Didn't work. Let's cut our losses and cut ourselves loose.
How hard could nationhood be? California has always cut the cloth on its own pattern, which drives the Beltway boys nuts.
The feds, for example, dropped their ban on assault weapons last week; California's is still in place. A California Republic could add to those "got-any-produce-or-plants?" checkpoints the question, "Any AK-47s?"
The Bush administration has bumped millions of workers off the overtime-eligibility rolls; California workers, with their own overtime protection laws, are virtually unaffected. The federal minimum wage is $5.15 an hour, and it hasn't gone up in seven years; California's minimum wage, albeit the lowest on the West Coast, is still $1.60 an hour higher. Schwarzenegger just vetoed an increase, but that's what the California recall is for.
Congress won't order U.S. automakers to make cleaner or more fuel-efficient cars? Schwarzenegger signed a bill green-lighting hybrid cars for carpool lanes, and he's endorsed new, strict California auto emission standards over the whining of Detroit's girlie men.
The White House storms against gay marriage as a dagger to the heart of American values; Schwarzenegger just signed a bill obligating insurance companies to sell homosexual partners the same policies they'd sell to heterosexual spouses.
Nationhood would mean the California Republic, with more cars and trucks than drivers, could sign the Kyoto environmental accord. It could dump NAFTA and negotiate its own trade pacts to match its social policies. We could, for example, thumb our nose — or hold it — at the U.S. Supreme Court ruling and insist that Mexican trucks entering California meet the same pollution and safety standards as domestic trucks.
Other states would be welcome to join; if New York decided to seal itself to California, we'd be like the original Pakistan, two parts of the same country on opposite sides of an even bigger one, the bicoastal nation of
We'd have to try for more dignity than the original Bear Flag rebels, Yankee ruffians who had heard the Mexican government might be booting them out of California for being undesirable illegal aliens. (How comical can history be?) They ran a homemade flag up a pole in the town square of Sonoma, a remnant of muslin with a red stripe made from a flannel petticoat. One William Todd drew the flag's bear and the star and the words "California Republic." He left out an "I" and had to ink it in later. The Mexicans muttered that the animal looked more like a pig.
Admit it, nationhood would be fun. We have everything we need: the world's fifth- or sixth-largest economy (it depends on how energetic the French are feeling in a given week), more Nobel laureates than anywhere else in the world, Yosemite, Death Valley, the Pacific, the Mojave, the redwoods and the best wine west of Bordeaux.
We have Hollywood, North America's biggest port complex and the San Joaquin Valley, breadbasket to the world. For my friends considering emigration, the new California Republic could be like the motherland, only an even more perfect union. We could have a Healthy Forests measure that actually protects forests, a Clear Skies measure that actually cleans up the sky and a Patriot Act that is actually about patriotism.
Brian Wilson could write us a national anthem. Willie Brown could be our U.N. representative, and Warren Beatty could be California's ambassador to the United States. Schwarzenegger could get elected California's president without all that silly bother about constitutional amendments, and get that presidential library in L.A. after all, just like in the movie "Demolition Man."
Remember, all of this was published before the 2004 Presidential Election. But are there really issues of that significance? Consider the following which is an
editorial not oriented towards separation:
State not getting fair share
By THOMAS D. ELIAS
Friday, November 21, 2003
There can no longer be the slightest doubt that California is America's
stepchild, providing money and bodies for national purposes while
getting far less than its share in return.
The latest semi-official numbers compiled by the Washington-based Tax
Foundation prove this. As if that was necessary after news came during
the hellish wildfires of Halloween week that the federal government had
refused California's request for money to remove dead, beetle-ridden
trees like the ones in national forests that fueled those ferocious
flames. The foundation's figures make a strong case that this state's
largest-ever congressional delegation suffers either from impotence or
lack of effort.
What's more, despite lots of happy talk and handshakes with President
Bush, there's been no discernible change since Republican Arnold
Schwarzenegger won the early October recall election.
It's not merely that California ranks 45th among the states in the
amount it gets back in federal spending per tax dollar sent East. Any
reasonable interpretation of the numbers also demonstrates that
California has among the least effective congressional delegations of
Compare California to No. 2 North Dakota, which gets back $2.07 for
each dollar its taxpayers send East. (The rankings omit the District of
Columbia, which where the government spends $6.44 for every tax dollar
paid in.) How many snowplows can the federal government buy for a state
that's home to few expensive federal programs?
The pat explanation offered by the Tax Foundation simply doesn't make
sense when California gets back just 76 cents for each dollar in
federal taxes paid. "States with higher per capita incomes, like
Connecticut, pay more per citizen because of the progressive nature of
the federal income tax," the foundation explains. "States with more
residents on Social Security, Medicare and other large federal
entitlements are bound to rank high."
That may sound sensible. But California hosts more Social Security and
Medicare recipients than any state, even more than Florida. If the Los
Alamos and Sandia national laboratories help explain why New Mexico
ranks first among states, getting back $2.37 for every dollar it
contributes, how come the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory doesn't boost
If the presence of Pearl Harbor's huge naval facility makes Hawaii No.
9, getting back $1.57 per dollar it puts in, how come the plethora of
bases still open here can't raise this state's ranking?
So the non-controversial pat answers don't work. The answer to
California's low standing is a combination of lousy representation and
the scorn of the Bush administration for a state the president lost by
12 percent in 2000.
Plainly, West Virginia owes its No. 5 ranking and its receipt of $1.82
for each dollar kicked in to the clout of Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd,
the silver-haired, silver-voiced pork-finding expert. Never mind that
he's in the minority, he still brings home the bacon for his state.
So does Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, who brings South Dakota a
No. 8 ranking even though he opposes President Bush at every
All these states feature united congressional delegations with
Republicans and Democrats putting partisan issues aside when the state
interests are on the line.
But it's hard to name one issue where Republican Dana Rohrabacher of
Orange County and Democrat Mike Thompsom, who represents the state's
North Coast, vote together. Nor has Rohrabacher ever evinced much
concern for the economic condition of that area, or Thompson for job
creation in Orange County. They are just two examples.
If there's one state with effective representation, it must be Alaska,
even though it has only one member in the House of Representatives.
With two staunchly conservative veteran senators who almost always side
with Bush, however, that state's take has risen from $1.26 to $1.91
over the last 10 years for every dollar it kicks in.
Meanwhile, California's share of federal spending fell steadily over
that same period, its ranking down 12 slots from where it stood in 1993.
Yet, this state should have plenty of clout, if those who hold it ever
want to flex their muscles. With Republican House committee chairmen
like David Dreier of eastern Los Angeles County, Bill Thomas of Kern
County and Christopher Cox of Orange County, there seems little excuse
for the treatment California regularly gets.
Perhaps Cox is the most egregious case. The chairman of a special House
committee on homeland security has been unable to get his state more
than $1.33 per person in anti-terror money, while Wyoming gets $9.78.
That would make sense if Al Qaida were interested in shooting wolves in
Yellowstone National Park. But all indications are the terror group
would far rather blow up a passenger terminal at Los Angeles
International Airport or the Golden Gate Bridge.
All of which means it's high time California's delegation in Washington
got a little unity. If California representatives are too fractious to
work together even on getting the state its fair share, maybe voters in
their districts should consider bouncing some of these long-term
politicians right out of their safe seats.
Then consider the following from the same writer after the election:
Bush versus California
By THOMAS D. ELIAS
Friday, December 31, 2004
As President George W. Bush gets set to begin his second term, the
question for California is whether he'll continue the non-violent war'
many Californians feel he's waged against this state for the last four
In some ways, the stakes will be even higher in the next four years than they've been over the last few.
Bush and his aides have made sure California remained a "donor" state,
getting back just 76 cents for each tax dollar it sends to Washington,
D.C. and thus subsidizing many of the "red" states that twice voted for
Bush. By comparison, while Bill Clinton was president, California got
back about 84 cents of every federal tax dollar paid. That's an
eight-cent difference, and eight cents on every dollar can build a lot
of roads, school buildings, sewage plants and libraries.
Bush cancelled national monument status for parts of the Sierra Nevada
Mountains that Clinton had ordered preserved; he opened parts of the
Mojave Desert to off-road vehicles for the first time in decades, he's
forcing all California drivers to pay higher prices for gasoline by
continuing to insist it include ethanol, and he refused to buy back
offshore oil drilling leases along the California coast, as he did with
those in the Gulf of Mexico near Florida, where his brother is governor.
His attorney general shut down several medical marijuana clubs,
flouting the intent of California voters who passed Proposition 215 to
make pot legal with a doctor's recommendation. He refused to reimburse
the state for costs incurred by illegal immigrants who evade federal
Border Patrol officers. Not even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who dubbed
himself the "collectinator" and vowed to get more federal funds for
California, could get Bush to fix any of that.
In fact, even while campaigning for Bush last fall, the governor
couldn't come up with a single reason why Bush would be good for
California. "You have to think nationally," he said, without explaining
All that was important enough. But the stakes grow much higher in the
next few years as Bush appointees decide whether the University of
California continues operating the Los Alamos National Laboratory in
New Mexico and whether California againtakes the brunt of the losses in
the next round of military base closures.
The UC management of Los Alamos has rightly taken plenty of heat over
the last few years, with computer hard-drives going missing and charges
of espionage by employees of the top secret lab that develops much of
America's nuclear arsenal, among other military functions.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, is backing UC. But the
main competitor for a huge contract that long has helped subsidize
research on other UC campuses is the University of Texas, which seeks
the prestige, money and quality faculty that comes with running a major
Bush has affection for UT; he was a two-term governor of Texas and one
of his twin daughters graduated from the school last spring.
Texas has always been loyal to Bush; California has never voted for
him. The contract is supposed to be awarded on the basis of merit
alone, but in politics, that's often not how things work.
Then there are the base closings. California lost 29 military bases and
93,000 jobs in previous rounds of shutdowns in the 1980s and 1990s.
It's true that some of those derelict bases have been converted to
other productive uses: Fort Ord is the site of the current Cal State
Monterey Bay; several parcel services operate from an old air base near
San Bernardino, and affordable housing has been built on several others.
But the new functions have not replaced nearly all the old jobs, either in sheer numbers or in the level of pay they offer.
So Schwarzenegger has taken a stronger stance than predecessor
Republicans George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson toward preventing the
wholesale loss of bases that previous closure rounds inflicted on this
state. Where those former governors did little to prevent large scale
shutdowns, Schwarzenegger last fall named a bi-partisan Council on Base
Support and Retention to make sure closures are limited to only one or
two at most.
For base closures can devastate communities. A recent study by the Los
Angeles Economic Development Corp., for example, showed that the Los
Angeles Air Force Base contributes $16 billion to the state's economy
every year, even though it doesn't even have a runway.
The LAAFB, operating from rather nondescript buildings in and near El
Segundo, manages most of America's military spacecraft acquisitions,
including communications, navigation and spy satellites. The base
directly employs 5,000 persons, but its purchases support about 111,700
more across the state. No one knows how many of those high-paying
technological jobs would leave the state if the Los Angeles base were
closed or moved.
Like other California bases, it may be vulnerable today, in part
because Bush has shown no interest in this state or its problems. Some
call that a "war," others chalk it up to a simple political grudge. But
for sure, the state has plenty at risk as the second Bush term gets set
The following are more columns and editorials regarding regarding issues and/or separation: