It began with a tweet, as so much does these days.
The first shot in the coming war was fired in a 140-character burst by Shervin Pishevar, a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley. "If Trump wins I am announcing and funding a legitimate campaign for California to become its own nation," said the first in a volley of tweets by the Iranian-American technology investor. "As 6th largest economy in world," he said three tweets later, "economic engine of nation, provider of a large % of federal budget, California carries a lot of weight."
This call to arms was retweeted thousands of times in those bewildering first hours of the Age of Trump. By the next morning, the movement for California to secede from the United States had made national headlines, with Pishevar anointed the movement's leader. It even had a name, Calexit, an echo of the Brexit movement, which will eventually cleave Great Britain from the European Union. The nativist tone of Brexit foreshadowed the xenophobia of Donald Trump. Calexit is a kind of nativism too, except it's fundamentally sunny in disposition — a Brexit for American liberals much more closely aligned with Western Europe than West Virginia.
Even if the majority of Californians vote for Marinelli's proposal, peaceful secession from the United States would be nearly impossible, says just about everyone with a knowledge of our federalized system. Pishevar seems to have decided as much; in the days following the election, he backed away from his call for secession. Once ringing with secessionary bravado, his Twitter feed is now protected. A press representative tells me Pishevar wasn't going to discuss the issue.
Yet there are substantive differences between California and the rest of the nation, a contrast that will only become sharper over the next four years. The Rust Belt gloom that helped elect Trump feels so distant from the Left Coast that it may as well be an abstraction. The America you see from the Sierra Nevada foothills, the endlessly fertile farmlands south of Sacramento and the coastal ranges of Santa Barbara is really a very good place to live: efficient, inclusive, optimistic — America 2.0. Back when the notion of a President Trump still seemed preposterous, the state's Democratic governor, the gruff Jerry Brown, told a group of labor leaders in Sacramento, "If Trump were ever elected, we'd have to build a wall around California to defend ourselves from the rest of this country." Brown quickly added that he was joking, but we all know what Freud said about the honesty that humor frequently conceals.