SAN FRANCISCO – A group in California is taking independence to heart and is pushing for something that may change the nation: secession. The Yes California Independence Campaign, which started in 2014, believes that California should be its own country separated from the United States.
“I want [independence], and believe Californians want and would be best served by separating from the United States so we can have a country to be proud of again,” Louis J. Marinelli, president of the campaign, recently told the Northern California Record.
Marinelli believes California to be that specific country of which we can be proud and plans on helping it secede by using a two-prong approach.
“One, we intend to qualify a referendum for the 2020 ballot that asks voters if California should be an independent country…[this] referendum would be non-binding, but it would establish, if it passes, a mandate of the people to justify moving forward,” he said to the Northern California Record. “At the same time, we are working to elect pro-independence candidates to the state Assembly and state Senate (myself a candidate for state Assembly) so that when this referendum passes, we have the political infrastructure in place with pro-independence legislators and senators, to move the ball forward.”
The next step would be getting states’ consent.
“The next step after that would be to pursue the consent of the states via a Constitutional amendment (this is how the Supreme Court has ruled a state may legally secede – “by consent of the states”). We will also consider advocating for an Article V convention of states if the federal Congress won’t listen to our plea. If we get the consent of the states, we can move forward again.”
Moving forward as an independent Californian nation is the hope he developed after being disenchanted with what he perceives as an un-united United States.
“Over my years involved in politics, I have become disillusioned with the American political and economic system,” Marinelli said. “I used to be a staunch right-wing conservative, poster boy American patriot, and defender of America. Then I came to see the corruption and hypocrisy of this country, as well as its imperialism and militarism.”
This perception developed for him in two ways. Firstly, his time living abroad for three years helped him gained what he considers a more mature perspective, viewing the U.S. from an outside the box vantage. Secondly, Marinelli’s experience as an English as a second language teacher for seven years and the relationship he developed with people from different parts of the world such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Yemen, Colombia and parts of Europe helped molded his stance. He found it ridiculous how people from different nations are treated with alleged misconceptions by the general American public. All of his experience congealed into a solid decision for Marinelli: California should be its own nation detached from U.S. influence.
“[I want] a country that doesn’t spend more on its military than then next 10 countries combined,” he said. “I want a country that will spend that money on health care and education, and infrastructure, and improving the quality of life of its people. An independent California will be able to afford universal health care and college education for all citizens. We’ll be able to rebuild our infrastructure which is currently ranked among the worst in the entire country. I want a country that isn’t the police of the world; a country that works with the rest of the world instead of against it.”
Marinelli believes California can be the country that works with the world because of its diversity and tolerance.
“The people of California are more worldly – this is the most diverse and tolerant place in the country, we’ve got people from all over the world living here in peace,” he said. “It’s a true example of the success of multiculturalism that Americans decry. My district (California’s 80th) has a neighborhood called City Heights, which is itself an example of this multiculturalism, diversity and tolerance, within the larger California example of this and I am proud to live here and be part of that.”
In Marinelli’s eyes, California has always been a leader in progressive human rights and diversity. According to him, California was on the forefront for civil rights and women’s suffrage and is leading the charge on climate change, gay rights, women’s reproductive rights, raising the minimum wage, etc.
In short, California is different from the rest of America.
If the state were to secede, the progress and tolerance won’t change. The few things that will change, according to Marinelli, will be California’s constitution and some infrastructural needs.
“Much of California’s current constitution will remain in place, particularly the parts about people’s rights and liberties,” he said. “There will be a necessity to make unsubstantial changes to the constitution to, for example, change the title of the governor and lieutenant governor to president and vice president.
There will need to be some overhaul of the constitution, as well. The details will have to be worked out at a convention of elected representatives so I can’t say exactly what kind of constitution will be in place, but I certainly advocate for proportional party representation in the legislature so that third parties have a seat at the table instead of America’s two-party system dominated by the Democrats and Republicans. The secretary of state will have to assume the role of top diplomat of California instead of worrying about business licenses and elections. Some infrastructure will need to be created where it does not currently exist, such as an active-duty military.”
The key points, Marinelli points out, are that California will retain and may even expand its civil liberties while building a framework for a federal state to be a more responsible, responsive and representative legislature.
He explains that the supposed new country will be able to maintain its government job, agency, and programs all the while creating a beneficial health care and education system, paying down its debt, and saving money for the future without raising any taxes.
This is made possible by keeping the taxes collected from the state within the state and not distributing it to others.
“With those taxes kept in California instead of sent to Washington to be redistributed and by forming a military with a budget comparable to the global average for military budgets ($17 billion), we’ll be able to do everything listed above without any new taxes. On top of that, when our debt has been paid off (and I mean local, county and state debt can all be paid off within three decades) then we can actually cut income taxes.”
The country of California will still maintain relations with the U.S., working with them in the United Nations, addressing common interests, continuing trade, and possible helping defend the U.S. from attacks.
“We don’t wish ill will upon the Americans, we just don’t want to be under their thumb anymore,” he said.
More details on Marinelli’s campaign can be found at www.yescalifornia.org