California secessionists have what may be a tempting proposal for the red states: Help the Golden State secede by voting to kick it out of the union.
Citing a looming court fight over state-splitting, Calexit organizers have postponed their ballot strategy and launched a campaign to convince red-state legislators to vote in favor of telling California to take a hike.
“We are going to rely on the deep hatred for California that exists in red America,” said Louis Marinelli, a founder of Yes California, the Calexit campaign.
The plan is to convince 25 of the 31 Republican-held legislatures to pass “consent to secede” resolutions, then place the question before California voters in the form of a ballot measure, instead of vice versa.
Calexit could then “come back to California and tell the people: we have the constitutionally required consent to secede, all we have to do now is vote yes,” Mr. Marinelli said in an email.
“I think people will be really motivated when it gets to that point, whereas in our previous approach, we could vote yes now but then have to wait for consent of the states,” he said. “That’s kind of a motivation killer.”
Will it work? Is it constitutional? Who knows? But Yes California organizers said they were forced to regroup after the California Supreme Court in July struck the “three Californias” initiative from the November ballot, ruling that “significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity.”
The decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Planning and Conservation League against Proposition 9, the measure bankrolled by Silicon Valley billionaire Tim Draper that would have divided the state into three.
Citizens for Cal3 accused the environmental group of “doing the dirty work of the Sacramento establishment,” but the ruling prompted Calexit, which had begun to gather signatures for a 2020 ballot berth, to change course while the court battle plays out.
The appeal to red states comes as the latest reboot for the Calexit team, led by Mr. Marinelli and Marcus Ruiz Evans, since launching in 2014. Last year’s signature-gathering effort was dissolved after organizers decided to reword the secession measure, which was relaunched in April.
In July, the group proposed the idea of creating an “autonomous Native American nation” out of inland California as part of the secession effort.
After President Trump was elected, Calexit organizers tapped into California outrage over his policies, arguing that the liberal Golden State’s clashes with the administration on illegal immigration, climate change and other issues could be resolved by creating a new nation.
The Consent of the States Project seeks to take advantage of another political current: the frustration of not just red states but also neighboring states that have seen their political balance altered by the influx of Californians leaving the state in droves.
In Colorado, for example, Republicans are running an anti-California campaign against Democratic Rep. Jared Polis in his bid for governor with ads accusing him of wanting to “turn Colorado into California.”
“RadiCalifornia. That’s what you get when you bring radical left-wing policies to your state — policies that have already failed in California,” says the ad by the Republican Governors Association.
Mr. Marinelli said the latest approach takes a page from the Convention of States, a largely conservative-driven movement that seeks to hold a landmark 50-state convention at which delegates could propose and pass amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Under Article V, Congress is required to hold such a convention if requested by two-thirds of the states, which comes to 34. Any proposed amendment would need the approval of 38 states.
So far 12 states have passed Convention of States resolutions and another 10 have passed resolutions in one chamber, according to the organization’s map, a framework that Calexit hopes to follow.
Convention of States has plenty of high-profile supporters, including Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, but Mr. Marinelli said he believes the framework could work for the secession campaign.
“We’ve been inspired by the Convention of States campaign, so we intend to mimic their success,” Mr. Marinelli said.
The third California-splitting movement, New California, which seeks to divide the state into two along urban-rural lines, has taken yet a different approach by moving to gain the support of counties and then bring their declaration for approval to the state legislature.
Organizers say the approach is rooted in Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution and cited the example of West Virginia’s split from Virginia during the Civil War as precedent.
The rural-based movement, which has a full schedule of town halls each month, plans to hold its second New California State Convention next month in Irvine aimed at constructing the new state constitution.
Calexit has more than few hurdles to overcome. Mr. Marinelli, who has lived in Russia, has been accused of being a Moscow operative, which he denies. Most legal experts argue that there is no constitutional basis for secession.
On the other hand, there may be more support for secession outside California than within. A Berkeley IGS Poll released in March 2017 found that 68 percent of Californians opposed declaring their independence and forming their own nation.
Compare that with a January 2018 Rasmussen Reports poll that found 58 percent of U.S. adults surveyed opposed seeing California secede—still more than half, but not by much.
As Calexit says, “We can turn their dissatisfaction with California into action for California!”
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