Jeff Jardine

State of dis-Union obvious in the Golden State with Calexit, State of Jefferson making headway

Signs promoting the State of Jefferson -- roughly 20 counties that could break away from California to form a 51st state, are found all over Tuolumne and Calaveras counties. The committee will be making a presentation to the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors in March.
Signs promoting the State of Jefferson -- roughly 20 counties that could break away from California to form a 51st state, are found all over Tuolumne and Calaveras counties. The committee will be making a presentation to the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors in March. jjardine@modbee.com

This is my state of the dis-Union address, stemming from the fact that one group of Californians wants the state to secede from the Union, while another wants to secede from California and form the State of Jefferson.

Both – or neither – ultimately could have their way. Or one but not the other. Or the other but not the one. Who knows? It’s pretty tough to discount anything after a reality TV host and real estate developer became president.

Calexit’s supporters began floating the idea of secession three years ago and recently received the OK from California’s secretary of state to begin circulating a petition. Yes California’s web page cites “(1) California exerts a positive influence on the rest of the world, and (2) California could do more good as an independent country than it is able to do as just a U.S. state.”

But their campaign ramped up significantly almost immediately after Donald Trump’s election to the White House. If they can collect 585,000 signatures in a state of nearly 39 million by July 25, voters could decide in March 2019 whether California would leave the United States. The chances of this happening are remote; in an ABC poll last week, 68 percent of those questioned would not support independence.

And another highly scientific poll – the two-question one I posted on my Facebook page on Thursday – was even more definitive. From the 240-plus responses, only 15 favored secession. Emotions, not common sense, are driving the independence seekers. Some of the most liberal people I know and all of the conservatives I know do not support secession. Cease to be U.S. citizens? Not having that.

As Salida’s Katherine Borges posted, “No, the last time states tried that, it didn’t work out so well for them, did it?” (If that one isn’t self-explanatory, stop reading this now and move on to the comics). She also blogged about what would complicate such a departure in economic terms locally.

Driven by anti-Trump sentiments, the secessionists aren’t big-picturing. An example: What would happen to the Social Security and MediCare benefits they’ve paid into their entire working lives? Granted, House Speaker Paul Ryan wants to eliminate both, but assuming he fails, do any Californians really believe those programs will remain available to them if the state leaves the Union? Do they really think the Trump administration is going to refund their money as they renounce their citizenship?

Meanwhile, in 1941, folks in Northern California began voicing their frustrations with a California political system that leaves them underrepresented and guts their voting power. Based upon population, it hasn’t changed since California became a state. The large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and the Bay Area get most of the representation in the Legislature, while the geographically larger but more sparsely populated rural counties have literally no clout in Sacramento.

The State of Jefferson concept never totally died and has been revived in recent years. The movement includes 21 counties – Tuolumne and Calaveras among them – that have active committees. They are two of the nine counties in the 5th Assembly District and one of 11 counties represented by Republican Tom Berryhill in the 14th Senate District. Farther north, the 1st Senate District encompasses all or parts of 11 counties in the north and eastern parts of the state. Bay Area counties total 14 Assembly representatives and eight state senators.

Drive throughout the foothills and mountain counties from Tuolumne to the Oregon border and you’ll see “State of Jefferson” signs all over the place, touting “Lower Taxes. Smaller Government. Personal Freedoms.” Dave Titchenal of Sonora, one of the organizers in Tuolumne County, said their committee will make a presentation to the county’s supervisors in a special meeting in March.

They have three ways to have the county move to become part of Jefferson: get three of the five supervisors to approve it, collect signatures of half plus one of the county’s registered voters, or take it to the voters as a ballot measure. He believes more than half of the county would support becoming part of the State of Jefferson, as did many of those who responded to my informal – excuse me, scientific – Facebook poll.

Some Jefferson backers prefer to force the state Legislature to increase their representation, Titchenal said.

“We are looking for a remedy,” he said.

Others want to break away entirely, Titchenal said.

The irony was that among the comments to my Facebook survey, some blamed both movements on “liberals.”

In the case of the State of Jefferson, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the 21 counties almost exclusively voted for Trump, while California overall – Stanislaus County included – favored Democrat Hillary Clinton. These conservative counties don’t want to leave the United States. They want out of liberal-controlled California, some citizens of which want out of the Trump-controlled United States.

If that isn’t a state of dis-Union, what is?

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