In the wake of the 2016 election, both the California National Party and its call for independence (#freethebear) have picked up a lot of momentum. This leads to the impression that the movement is just an overreaction, a pushback over the election of someone the vast majority of Californians did not vote for.
Which raises a question: why should the residents of northern California and the Central Valley, many of whom did vote for the eventual winner, go along with a call for California independence? Is this movement just a temper tantrum thrown by the urban “elites?” It’s a fair question.
The answer to it is somewhat complicated, but it starts with the clear fact that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans care about California at all, except when it comes time to take money, either in the form of campaign contributions, or diverting our tax dollars to other states. They exist not to govern, but to win elections. It’s more important that the opponent fails so that blame can be laid, than it is to effectively govern.
For proof, one need only consider the Affordable Care Act. The Republicans spent the last 8 years doing everything they could to sabotage the ACA. They have been unwilling to pass anything that might fix the flaws. They actively declined to implement it as intended at the state level. And now they are blaming the Democrats for a bad law. Similarly, now that the Republicans are in charge, the Democrats appear willing to let the Republicans tear down the law and strip people of the health care they recently obtained, just so the finger of blame can be pointed their way.
As entrenched as we are in the existing U.S. political duopoly, it’s hard to think beyond that reality. But what if there is another way? What if we had a system where our representatives advocated for us instead of advocating against each other? What if we had a system in which the choice was not binary — where compromise and alternative options were explored to find ways to serve all Californians? What if it was ok to admit that the opposition had a good idea, or that one of your own principles was a poor fit for a specific problem?
And think about this: we send approximately $60 billion more in tax dollars to Washington than we get back every year. To put that number in context, California has a $167 billion budget for 2016. Simply by not financing other states, and military waste, an independent California could increase its spending budget by $30 billion annually (18%), while simultaneously cutting an annual check for approximately $1500 to every person in the state. Let the scale of that fully sink in. While I am not saying that this is exactly what California would or should do with the windfall upon gaining autonomy, it does show just how much we stand to gain. It ought to appeal to you without it mattering which side of the political spectrum you reside on.
To my rural Californian countrymen, I offer that the “blue” coastal areas are not populated by entirely, or even mostly by “elites.” There simply aren’t enough “elites” to have 2.4 million of them vote “blue” in Los Angeles county. Relative to cost of living, most of us would also be considered “working class”. We aren’t really that different. Most of us want the exact same thing you want: a government that represents all of us, and implements policies that solve our shared problems. Silicon Valley needs the food from the valley. It needs the energy of the windmills in the hills, and the lumber from northern California. In the same way, farmers need the technology of the cities to solve real issues such as water, and the tax dollars that the urban areas generate to implement those solutions. It’s a mistake to distill this down to “us against them” between the cities and rural areas. That binary adversarial attitude is how the Republicans and Democrats keep control of the country while also utterly failing to properly steward it.
We have more in common than the entrenched parties would like you to believe. If we would just carve our own path, and cut out the polarizing rhetoric of the false duopoly, we can build a California that works together to solve our shared problems and build an independent nation where we can all prosper.