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.
Unrelated to Pishevar’s tweetstorm was a Sacramento rally held the day after the election (but planned long before) by Yes California, a secession group run by a young man from San Diego named Louis Marinelli. Marinelli, 29, wants to use California’s ballot measure process to have his fellow citizens vote for secession, much as they have voted to ban plastic bags and legalize recreational marijuana. Unlike Pishevar, whose secessionary tweets were plainly fired off in a fit of frustration, Marinelli has been long at work on this issue and will eagerly lay out his reasoning to anyone willing to listen. “America is a sinking ship, and the strongest position for California to take is one on its own lifeboat setting its own course forward,” he tells me. “A strong California holding its ground and attempting to influence the decisions of those in Washington at the helm of this sinking ship will find itself at the bottom of the ocean with them.”