In the past, whenever I came across an article in which someone boosted the notion of secession, it elicited a chuckle from me. Boy, that’s out there, I thought.
But now, I’m not sure a majority of Californians would vote to stay in a country led by Donald Trump. In fact, a nascent petition drive seeks to put the secession question before the state’s voters. And look at the mayors of sanctuary cities who vowed to keep them so, even if their cities would defy federal orders. Revolt is in the air.
Consider the rancor in Sacramento last week when state lawmakers opened their session. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon of Paramount called Trump’s appointments “white nationalists and anti-Semites” and went on to say that “Californians do not need healing. We need to fight.”
Remember, Rendon is not some masked polemicist pulled off the street. He is the speaker of the state assembly, an adult in a leadership position. Yet there was no indication in the article that any Democrats tried to walk him back; indeed, some reports said he got a standing ovation. That means at some level, he was speaking for the state, a state that increasingly seems to be itching to defy the incoming president and disobey federal law if it comes to that.
We could debate whether Californians’ tone and temperament are all that much different from the secession talk that we heard from livid Republicans, especially in Texas, during the eight years of the Obama administration. But that’s not the point. The point is this: lately it’s become starkly clear that left and right have grown way, way apart. More than I realized.
We no longer respectfully debate – the other side will never be convinced. The rage is so intense that we now either clam up about politics – like at your Thanksgiving dinner – or we shout, calling each other vile names. As marriage counselors say, when contemptuous words are spewed openly and without remorse or apology, it signals a cavernous problem with the relationship.
And that’s where we are. A cavernous problem with the relationship. The left wants a progressive march toward European-style social democracy that emphasizes justice and equality. The right yearns for a return to the exceptional country that grew strong on its experiment of liberty mixed with capitalism. These two paths are divergent; as each side marches farther down their trail, left and right get further apart. Maybe that’s why we’re shouting so much; we feel as if the other side has wandered pretty far away.
And yes, I know. It’s phenomenally difficult for secession to succeed. But you know how these things work. If eventually the country arrives at a point where there’s general agreement on all sides and in the middle that a divorce is best, then divorce it will be.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want the country to split up. I believe that someday left and right will find some common footing again. OK, so maybe I’m a naïve idealist.
All I’m saying is that the whole idea of secession, which not long ago seemed kind of loony, now feels almost mainstream. The needle that measures the likelihood of a serious secession movement has moved past “forget about it,” past “very unlikely” and now hovers over “somewhat unlikely.” But it keeps moving up.