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The prospects for a viable Non-Leftist California Nationalism
There has been a major change in leadership at Yes California, the Calexit organization that I have been involved with as a committee chairman. Yes California’s former president and one of the founders of Calexit, Louis Marinelli, has resigned from the Calexit movement, with the bold statement of “I brought Calexit into this world and now I will take it out.” Marinelli stated that “It is vitally important for millions of rational, normal people living in California that that state as we know it never becomes an independent country. By rational and normal, I mean just about anyone who is not a left wing lunatic pushing a modern-day Cultural Revolution through cancel culture, critical race theory, and woke politics.” Marinelli added that “Independence would unbind California from the only thing that has thus far kept it from completely deteriorating into a third world communist state. That one thing is the United States Constitution.”
Louis Marinelli was initially going to be the Calexit candidate for California governor, and I had endorsed his campaign. Marinelli previously ran for state assembly in 2016 and had the highest vote count of any pro-independence candidate in California history. Now Marinelli plans to leave California once he relocates back to the United States from Russia, citing concerns about California’s declining quality of life, the political climate, and the Calexit movement’s shift to the left. Marinelli stated that he spent “seven years promoting California exceptionalism based on data that was often rushed and incomplete, or simply inaccurate.”
Marinelli identifies as a Centrist Populist, with political views that combine aspects of Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and libertarianism, views that are ideologically aligned with my vision for radical centrism. I am not taking a stance on the interpersonal issues within Yes California leadership but Marinelli’s departure is a sign that the Calexit movement is shifting leftwards, a trend which started after the election of Donald Trump.
The organization of Yes California will remain active but under new leadership. The former CEO of Yes California, Marcus Ruiz Evans has stepped down, and Jason Wright announced that he is “now the highest ranking officer of YesCA and am still committed to the cause and movement. The former CEO (Marcus Ruiz Evans) is helping me to step into the role of "Head of Yes" so we can keep on trucking along. For now, follow or message me to get involved.”
The context of the change in leadership was the stance that Louis Marinelli took in support of the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict. Marcus Ruiz Evans issued a statement that he could not endorse the Rittenhouse verdict and did not approve of how it was framed to appear that Yes California had endorsed Kyle Rittenhouse on social media. Marcus Ruiz Evans pointed out that California is generally very liberal and estimates that about 80% of Californians were unhappy with the Rittenhouse verdict. Marcus did not call to exclude those who supported the verdict but considered it bad optics to take a stance that was so out of touch with California values and detracts from the cause, adding “Kyle Rittenhouse is not key to California secession”. Marcus Ruiz Evans stated that even though he is stepping down as CEO of Yes California, he will still be involved with the cause for independence.
I have a strong California identity with family going back in the State for many generations, and have called for California to adopt its own political framework and identity that is different from America’s red vs. blue politics. However, we need to be honest about California’s political reality and the state’s many problems, including a declining quality of life, some of the nation’s worst income inequality with a GINI index tied with Mississippi, one of the worst education systems in the nation, and corrupt one party leadership in Sacramento.
We need to be able to differentiate California values from just blue state values, especially as the left is becoming increasingly racist and authoritarian, opposing freedom of speech, in both California and the rest of the nation. The left in California is increasing aligned with corporate interests, producing a hybrid of leftism and oligarchic capitalism, that has a stranglehold on California’s institutions. It is naïve to shill for California values and blame everything on Americanism when woke ideology got its foothold at UC Berkeley and other elite institutions in the State. Even though Silicon Valley is linked to the US Deep State, the industry is still heavily interlinked with California, politically, culturally and economically. California is exporting tech censorship and woke bigotry to the rest of the Nation and the World.
We also need an honest assessment of the Calexit movement, its viability, and relation to California’s overall political situation. The reality is that California’s politics, including Calexit, is caught up in America’s red vs. blue divide, especially after the election of Trump, where many Calexit supporters were motivated primarily by their opposition to Trump. There are signs that America is entering a cold civil war, and California appears to be firmly in the blue camp rather than staying neutral and focusing inwards on California issues. The controversy over the Rittenhouse verdict further shows the strong impact of America’s culture war on California. Regardless of one’s personal opinion of Rittenhouse, it is the Left that is pushing the dangerous politicization of the judicial system.
Calexit has gotten media hype due to how important California is and the talk of a national divorce. However, the cause seems to have peaked in support, polling at about a third of Californians, during the Trump years. A more recent poll shows support for Calexit down to 14%, with the strongest support among Latinos, the young, and those who identify politically as liberal. While a significant segment of Californians are sympathetic to the idea of California independence, the overall movement is much more modest in scope than other independent movements such as Scottish Independence, Catalan Independence in Spain, and Cape Independence in South Africa, in their respective regions. Support for Calexit seems to have peaked under Trump, declined under Biden, and could likely gain back support as the GOP will likely retake the Congress and the Whitehouse.
The Calexit movement has various factions, some very leftwing but also had support from libertarians, centrists, and even Trump supporters. Yes California generally had a big tent approach, inclusive of all who supported the cause for independence, regardless of ideology. I have known it’s former CEO, Marcus Ruiz Evans, for at least a decade, as he introduced me to the concept of granting California autonomy when we were co-hosts on AM talk radio in Fresno. Marcus took more liberal stances on social issues, free trade, and immigration, but was always willing to hold open discussion and debate with a slate of guests that leaned to the right. Marcus took this diplomatic, tolerant, inclusive, and pluralist approach when moderating Yes California as a big tent movement.
Besides Yes California, the other Calexit organizations, the California National Party, the California Freedom Coalition, and the media network Red Star Report, are more leftwing. For instance the California National Party’s platform is fairly leftwing on both social and economic issues, including positions that I agree with such as UBI, but also platform stances that align more with woke/critical race theory ideology and economic proposals that are too far left as well.
On an episode of Red Star Report, Shankar Singham, who is also vice president of the California Freedom Coalition, embraced that “BLM is a California idea.” Unfortunately Shankar isn’t wrong and this further shows that California is exporting woke politics to the rest of the world. Shankar also praised the organization Sedition Hunters, which shows a clear alliance with the blue tribe, rather than neutrality in America’s political strife.
Appearing on Tucker Carlson’s show, Shankar Singham told Tucker that “In regard to the middle class leaving, that’s actually a good thing. We need these spots opened up for the new wave of immigrants to come up. It’s what we do. We’re exporting our middle class to the United States. You guys should be thanking us for that.” Yes California clarified that “He wasn't speaking for us. By keeping our taxes here, California will be a more affordable place to live for middle-class Californians.”
Even though Shankar Singham was trolling for publicity, his statement was likely interpreted by Tucker Carlson’s audience as Calexit wanting to “elect a new people” or “supporting the Great Replacement.” This talk just further fuels political polarization, promotes a scarcity based framework of zero sum competition between immigrants and the native born, and is counter-intuitive to embracing a multiculturalism that is inclusive of all. The reality is that much of the left and neoliberal elites in California have contempt for the middle class.
The exodus out of California also serves as a safety valve for discontent, as Louis Marinelli’s departure shows. While diversity has benefited California as far as exposure to new ideas and cultures, California’s transient rootless nature, has contributed to its demise, as it makes it difficult to build any cohesive long-lasting political and cultural framework. The most viable independence movements all have a sense of a rooted demographic cultural identity, whether it is Gaelic in Scotland, Afrikaans in The Cape region, Quebecois in Québec, and Catalan in Catalonia. California’s cultural and demographic identity is much more fluid and many citizens whose families have been in California for generations are leaving. My California Nationalist Unity Platform’s “Lost Californians” initiative to counter the exodus could help build a stronger sense of California identity.
Gabe Guidarini’s national ideology map estimates that the dominant ideologies in California are liberalism, that supports capitalism, free trade, and pro-business policies but is very liberal on social issues and immigration, the ideology of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, Democratic Socialism that is very leftwing on both economic and social issues, and Social Democracy which represents the mainstream of the Democratic Party. However Guidarini’s map shows that the political demographic of Populist Centrism, which includes the Obama to Trump and Sanders to Trump voters, is much more concentrated in the Upper Midwest but not so much in California, and is overrepresented among the White working class, a dwindling demographic in California.
This Populist Centrist demographic is crucial to building up any viable California Nationalist coalition. A hypothetical dissident center coalition in California could include those who supported Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard, non-woke Bernie Sanders supporters, small “L” libertarians, the segment of Trump voters who are anti-establishment but not pro-GOP, plus the brain power of the Grey Tribe (eg. Bay Area Futurist scene). A major reason I initially supported Calexit, was that I saw it as a vehicle for promoting radical centrism and decentralist ideals.
An independent California nation would be great hypothetically, but only if a new political framework were instituted. However, I would vote no if an independence referendum were to be held this year, as the concept is premature. Under a scenario where Calexit were to happen now, the worst elements of the Democratic Party would likely seize power, Woke/CRT ideology and policies would become even more extreme, and the exodus would accelerate. Those in power would be much closer politically to Kamala Harris or AOC rather than the pro-California Unity Platform that I put forth. A viable California Nationalism can’t just be woke democrats who want independence.
There are challenges to organizing big tent movements with members with divergent views and the Calexit movement needs principles that its supporters can agree upon. For starters Calexit must decide if they want to promote a California exceptionalism that defends the narrative of the Democratic Party or work to build alternative institutions and a framework that is diametrically opposed to California’s Democratic Party. If coherent principles are not established, the movement will become more leftist, rather than offering a positive alternative to red vs. blue tribe politics.
As polarization intensifies, I am pessimistic about California successfully implementing its own political framework. I am not denouncing the Calexit movement but rather offering constructive criticism for those in the movement who are serious about building an alternative framework in California. My main political focus is building a framework for a dissident centrism that supports the right to self-determination for all groups, regardless of whether Calexit is the vehicle for those values or not.