Calexit and the California Recall

California’s gubernatorial recall is the first major statewide election where California Independence is an issue being discussed. This California tradition is an opportunity for a wide range of candidates to use their campaign platforms to bring attention to signature issues. Support for the recall has immensely diverse support from conservatives, independents, populists, libertarians, and anti-establishment leftists.

While pro-independence candidates have run in the past, this election has three different gubernatorial candidates, Louis Marinelli, Nickolas Wildstar, and Michael Loebs, all running on a statewide level in support of Calexit. The California independence movement, like the recall, generally rejects the state’s failed one-party rule, but is made of different groups and activists with their own diverse stances. Among the three Calexit advocates running for governor, both Louis Marinelli and Nickolas Wildstar are running as Republicans while Michael Loebs is representing the California National Party, a third-party dedicated to independence.

Louis Marinelli (Campaign Site) is running as an anti-Washington and anti-Sacramento candidate and was one of the original organizers for the independence cause, launching a campaign for independence in 2014. He was also a candidate for state assembly in the San Diego metro area in 2016, garnering 6.4% of the vote. More Recently Marinelli opened up a California Cultural Embassy in Moscow, Russia and if elected promises to “issue an executive order removing the American flag from official display on state properties and at state agencies in California.”

Nickolas Wildstar (Campaign Site) is a recording artist and political activist with a background in both the Ron Paul and Occupy Movements, and was a candidate for Fullerton City Council, Fresno Mayor, and a Libertarian candidate for California Governor in 2018. Wildstar was also active in the campaign to recall Newson, and like Marinelli has been active in pro-independence activism.

Michael Loebs (Campaign Site) has taught as a lecturer at San Francisco State University and joined the California National Party in 2016. He became their chairman in 2019. The California National Party describes itself as “supporting California-focused solutions to the issues that face our home” and adds “While our long-term goal is complete political independence for California, our immediate aims are to fight for full access to housing, healthcare, and political representation for all Californians.”

Among the three pro-Calexit candidates, there is immense ideological diversity with all offering out of the box solutions which are not easy to pigeonhole politically. Michael Loebs is the most ideologically left-leaning of the candidates, on both economic and social issues such as racial justice, but nevertheless has addressed theneglect of the more conservative rural areas of California by Democratic leadership.

Nicholas Wildstar has more libertarian stances, calling for making state income taxation voluntary but also has a populist streak, calling for economically empowering Californians through a public bank and public ownership of utilities.

Louis Marinelli has a variety of stances that range the spectrum from progressive, conservative, to libertarian. For instance Marinelli makes the case that we can have lower taxation while protecting our social safety nets. He also puts a strong emphasis on a stronger social safety net for families including paid maternity leave, free kindergarten from the age of three, and tax breaks for families. He is the only candidate running who has made it a main focus to solve the exodus of jobs and citizens out of the state.

Of the three candidates, all are friendlier to positions on housing aligned with YIMBYism— In support for zoning reform and building more housing. All three candidates have stances on criminal justice and police reform in favor of protecting civil liberties, both Wildstar and Loebs have positions in support of public banking, and both Wildstar and Loebs have put forth a basic income proposal, with Wildstar calling on funding via public banking and utilities and Loeb also calling for a negative income tax.

As far as the problem of cancel culture, in my interview with Louis Marinelli he makes the case that we need to recognize free speech on social media as part of the public square of the 21st Century. In my interview with Nicholas Wildstar, he makes the case that localizing education and ending government protections for tech monopolies can better protect free expression.

Regardless of whether Calexit is voted upon as a referendum, there needs to be a viable alternative to one party rule. The California National Party hopes to carve out that niche by focusing on California issues and with Marinell and Wildstar running as Republicans, there is a case for a revitalized progressive California GOP to challenge democratic hegemony.

It is an uphill battle for any anti-establishment candidate, taking into account we have a winner takes all rather than representational electoral system, but recalls are a unique tool of California’s Democracy that grant more opportunities to alternative candidates. The smears against the recall border on anti-democratic, similar to the way Calexit has  gotten its shares of political attacks. Due to the winner take all political system, Newsom still has the upper hand, but the recall is good for democracy overall in that it holds incumbents accountable.

There is a false perception that Calexit was just a reaction to Donald Trump and that it would fizzle out once the Democrats return to power nationally, but what Calexit does offer, besides the independence cause, is a political movement that is more regional focused and attuned to the distinct needs of Californians, whose interests have been neglected by a national-issues-focused Democratic Leadership.