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Friday, December 9, 2016

Will Liberals Start Embracing "States' Rights"?

Louis Marinelli is not well known, at least not yet. He is, however, the primary mover behind the a California referendum on the state's independence from the United States. It will be held in 2019 if he collects 500,000 signatures by the Fall of 2017. The movement, which is becoming known as "CalExit" (an obvious play on "Brexit"), has its own website, Yes California Independence, and it appears to be gaining steam. I would be surprised if Marinelli doesn't collect the necessary signatures to get the referendum on the ballot. However, I am skeptical of his movement's long-term viability, but then again, I was skeptical of Trump's viability as a candidate and look how wrong I was on that count! -- so, who knows what might happen given the political climate in which we find ourselves. Moreover, I am too much of an American to support it.

Nevertheless, imagine the stress that such a referendum would cause if it goes forward. The economic impact of the world's 7th largest economy leaving the union could be devastating. For example, consider how many people in the other 49 states would be left holding the bag (not Trump, or course) if the taxes that Californians currently pay to the U.S Treasury suddenly went away. Not an ideal scenario, at least not if you value the health and well-being of your neighbor and don't define "neighbor" as someone who lives within California's state borders.

The CalExit movement does makes me wonder, however, whether political liberals will begin to embrace the notion of "states' rights" after years of disparaging it. Technically, states' rights refers to political powers reserved for state governments rather than the federal government. However, since the Civil Rights movement (and possibly before), the phrase has often been associated with opposition to federally mandated racial desegregation. Put somewhat differently, it has become a rallying cry for those who want the U.S. to to treat African-Americans (and other racial minorities) as second class citizens.

White nationalists have not cornered the market on states' rights, however. Those of us who care about the dangers of environmental degradation, the treatment of ethnic and religious minorities, and the deleterious long-term effects of crony capitalism, may want to draw on the notion of "states' rights" as a means by which we can thumb our collective nose at those in the federal government who don't share our concerns. For example, although it appears likely that the Trump administration may reject the Paris Accords, it is not only nations that can "ratify" them. States such as California and cities such as San Jose can do so as well. Thus, although the Trump administration may try to ruin the future of our kids and grandkids, we don't have to.

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