I became a Civil War buff when I was 14, thanks to a summer spent nursing a broken ankle and a well-stocked public library. Over the next decade of my life, I went deep on this time in American history, from the ante bellum period, to the war itself, to the reconstruction period. I read all the books I could find, and that quest took me into esoteric territory like how the war played out in my home state of California, which contributed a lot of gold and more soldiers than you probably realize to the Union war effort, despite anecdotal examples of secessionists taking to the hills around Los Angeles, not far from where I live today.
I mention this because there’s a lot of talk about California seceding from the Union, or as some have taken to calling it #Calexit. I know this is just talk. And I know that this is how some people choose to vent their frustration at the results of the 2016 election. But this election proves that words matter, and so there really is no such thing as “just talk.”
For those posting about seceding, I have a question. Why model the behavior of violent slaveholders who thought their right to own people was more important than our commitment to form a more perfect union?
I think there’s a much better way. States are the laboratories of democracy. California’s lab is looking really good these days, not just because we continue to move toward more progressive policies, but because we’ve achieved what is most lacking at the federal level and elsewhere in our nation, namely a functional government and an electorate that is capable of delivering meaningful input on dozens of complicated issues. Put simply, California has a lot of good things to share with America. If you believe in those things and you want to make them a reality for everyone, you don’t secede in California; you succeed in California.