Did California Just Declare Itself a Nation-State?


Libertarians — myself included — have held out hope for a federalist revival that would shift power from the Federal Government back to the states, where it belongs. I even published a book of my favorite interviews on this theme, Power to the States: How Federalism 2.0 Can Make America Governable Again.

One of the chapters featured the unexpected rise in popularity of federalism in California (hardly a bastion of libertarian thought). On many issues, a majority of Californians want to resist the Federal Government — in some cases favoring even stricter standards, such as in the case of automobile emissions standards, while simultaneously seeking to relax Trump’s strict immigration controls.

One of the incredible civics lessons we will soon obtain from the Coronavirus outbreak has to do with the limits of “Federalism 2.0.” California Governor Gavin Newsom now appears to be positioning the Golden State as a Nation State. We have our own plan for re-opening the economy, which is allegedly based on “data” and “science” rather than politics.

While the Supreme Court has clearly upheld the states’ authority to implement quarantines, we are in somewhat uncharted territory as places like California, Oregon and Washington may attempt to extend the shelter-in-place guidelines — forcing healthy Americans to stay indoors — for an unreasonably long period of time.

Is the brewing showdown between President Trump and Governor Newsom an omen of a future Civil War, or could California legally secede from the Union without the need for a bloody war? Or, perhaps will we find a new balance of powers that eliminates the need for either?

Back in January, when I interviewed Frank Buckley on his latest book American Secession, I didn’t think a “Cal-Exit” could be so near on the horizon.

If Buckley’s thesis is correct, then Californians are desperate to regain their winning streak in the culture war, which ended when Trump was elected. Will they use the COVID-19 outbreak as a pretext to break with the rest of the country if a Trump re-election seems imminent?

This certainly isn’t the Federalism 2.0 I was hoping for.

Listen to the show to get Frank’s always insightful and humorous analysis of the “Governor-in-Chief’s” strategic use of terms like “nation-state” and “exports” in responding to the Federal Government’s alleged abdication of responsibility.