There might have been a GOP wave on the US Election Day but by the time the sun kissed the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California had turned a deeper shade of blue. Nothing to write about since the state has always been the bedroom of democrats. No wonder Clinton won by the largest margin in 80 years. Trump’s win has been received with shock and dismay and since then the progressives and liberals including major donors in the state have been planning for a Brexit inspired California secession from the Union dubbed Calexit (also Caleavefornia or Califrexit). Hypeloop co-founder and Uber investor Shervin Pisheven tweeted a financial pledge in support of the campaign to secede.
California is the 6th largest economy in the world and the debate on self-determination is a cardinal principle in modern international law which is engraved in the UN Charter and stipulates that all peoples have the right to self-determination, by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. The debate on exiting the union goes on despite the Hollywood state having a Constitution that clearly says that the state is “an inseparable part of the United States of America, and the United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land.” A campaign that goes by the name “Yes California” has for several years been pushing for the state to secede and become its own country for several years now. This week the group filed a proposed ballot measure with the Attorney General’s Office on the November 2018 gubernatorial ballot. They would need to collect more than half a million signatures for the Calexit question to be on the ballot paper in 2018. Should California become a free, sovereign, and an independent country? could be the question, and the voters will also be asked whether the voters want to secede from the union. If voters approve then the group will plan for a special election in March 2019 to ask the voters again if they want to secede from the Union.
Is there a legal path to secession?
Interestingly the United States Constitution has no exit plan for any state that my want out. It must feel like a forced marriage where divorce is just but an illusion. There is no return ticket, once you join the Union you must stay there no matter how abusive the relationship may get. The spirit and letter of the Constitution is that there is no legal path to secession. In 1861 Texas and 10 other southern states attempted to leave the union and form the Confederate States of America. The result of that was a Civil War that killed more than 700,000 people. The Supreme Court decision, Texas vs. White, in 1869 that said Texas, ”entered into an indissoluble relation,” which made it unequivocal, that Texas had no right to exit in the first place.
However, the proponents can seek for the amendment of the constitution which requires the approval of Congress and 38 states of the 50. This has only happened 17 times in 227 years. If the question is put on the ballot in 2018 and Californians vote to leave, a member of the California federal delegation could go to Washington and propose an amendment to the US Constitution to allow California to leave. The other alternative is for California to call for a convention of the states who would then vote for the amendment. Both options however, would need a congressional approval.
Revolution or death
If the amendment is implausible as I think it is another suggestion would be that if the voters approve a referendum on Calexit the proponents can present their case to the United Nation under its treaty of self-determination or the Republic of California .There are several precedents in recognition by the UN including Palestine.
The proponents claim that California pays more than its fair share in federal taxes to subsidize other states and that Trump’s policies on immigration and other issues are against the states’ values and now it is time the abusive marriage comes to an end by signing the divorce papers. The very last option would be to do a revolution. A revolution has to succeed though, otherwise there would be consequences and in the words of Fidel Castro, it is revolution or death.
BY FELIX OMUBURA
This article appears in our weekly digital law magazine, The Deuteronomy Vol 8, Issue 4 of November 25th, 2016
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