Home Episode California Dreaming

California Dreaming

March 7, 2017

California has one of the largest economies in the world. So what would happen if it broke away from the United States? Could California ever go independent? And if it did, what would that look like?

This is a future that’s been on my list for a while, but since the election here in the United States it’s taken a bit of a different tone. California voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, 66 percent of the state cast their votes for her. And as most of you probably know, she did not win. And this is one of the big talking points of many California secessionists. The presidential election is almost alway totally decided before California’s polls even close. So why should California continue to be ruled by a government that it basically doesn’t elect? And, they argue, that doesn’t really have their best interests at heart.

To help figure out what this future might be like, I talked to:

  • Peter Laufer, a journalist and the author of a book called The Elusive State of Jefferson.
  • Jon Christensen, a professor at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the Department of History at UCLA. He’s also the editor of a quarterly magazine about California called Boom.
  • Jay Rooney, the press secretary for the California National Party.
  • Richard Monette, a professor of law at the University of Wisconsin and the director of the Great Lakes Indian Law Center.

If you want to learn more about the various California independence movements, here are some links.

Flash Forward is produced by me, Rose Eveleth. The intro music is by Asura and the outtro music is by Hussalonia. Special thanks this week to Sameer Ajmani, Jade Davis, Brent Rose, Jim Basili, Caroline Sinders and Scott Musgrove. The episode art is by Matt Lubchansky.

If you want to suggest a future we should take on, send us a note on Twitter, Facebook or by email at info@flashforwardpod.com. We love hearing your ideas! And if you think you’ve spotted one of the little references I’ve hidden in the episode, email us there too. If you’re right, I’ll send you something cool.

And if you want to support the show, there are a few ways you can do that too! We have a Patreon page, where you can donate to the show. But if that’s not in the cards for you, you can head to iTunes and leave us a nice review or just tell your friends about us. Those things really do help.

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Alarion March 7, 2017 at 7:34 am

Hey Rose,

something seems to have gone wrong – my android podcast client can’t download the episode, and my computer can’t play or download it either (chrome says no file when downloading).

Cheers and looking forward to the intriguing future

Alarion March 7, 2017 at 9:12 am

All fixed now – maybe it was on my end, no idea. Thanks!

qwertzuiop March 8, 2017 at 4:15 pm

Hey, didn’t you recommend an other podcast in this episode? I looked for that part afterwards but couldnt find it, so it would be great if you could tell me which one it was..

Rose March 15, 2017 at 8:49 pm Reply
Paco Nathan March 17, 2017 at 12:39 pm

Flash Forward is my favorite podcast in all of the space-time continuum. Rose, thank you so much for herculean efforts that bring fantastic results. You’ve invented a next iteration beyond the timeless elegance of a radio play, something that fits our cravings for both science fiction and science, as well as truly interesting tidbits that are just odd, and sprinkled throughout the narratives in just the right portions: if this were a restaurant, you deserve a Michelin star.

This episode about California felt like it skipped a couple beats.

The part about Prop 8, really really seemed like a red-herring. So much funding for the opposition to same-sex marriage poured in from *outside* California, in particular from Mormon, Roman Catholic, Orthodox Jewish, and a frankenstein agglomeration of Right Wing special interests. It was almost as if the US had held a presidential election and some other country, say like a Russia, jumped in to disrupt the politics of the people who were supposed to be voting. Not like that would ever happen in practice… Oh, by the way, California citizenry and elected state government worked to correct that Prop 8 extraterritoriality influence, through the federal courts. Done and done. Your narrative in this podcast seemed to cast a peculiarly “tin-foil hat” shade on the matter, along with a few top notes of East Coast disdain for the West.

As someone who’s part Native American (and on the other side, from a Muslim family), thanks for covering or at least introducing the horrible tangle of knots in the legal issues about sovereignty. BTW, one of the takeaways from the speaker in the episode — at least the quote that stuck out — was about how much more it might cost to buy cigarettes on a reservation if a state became its own country. That felt a wee bit condescending, given the gravity of issues you were covering.

So 20/20 hindsight is a dangerous thing, and of course please take this one listener’s comments with a huge boulder of salt, but there’s so so *much* more that you could have covered, minus the tin-foil hats. California is in action, right now, endeavoring against the federal government. The governor, the leaders for both legislative houses, the attorney general, and many of the mayors and police chiefs in our major cities are working to put legal checks in place so that we can protect our laws that protect air quality, public schools for our kiddos, benefits for the elderly, the rights of people who’ve immigrated or want to immigrate. That work has been in full force since before Inauguration Day, and California really truly wants to avoid the thrashings of autocratic ideologues in DC from destroying what civility we have here. Oh and by the way, that’s basically what the Right Wing-ish elements of the Texas state government did throughout the Obama administration, so there’s legal precedent at the federal level to use — without having to drag up survivalist militia in their 4WDs. Not secession, per se, though it is in outright “revolt” against the federal government. Case in point, the LA police chief refusing to divert officers from public safety to servicing feds’ demands for rounding up (brown-skinned) immigrants.

Back to the Prop 8 thing, here’s a suggestion for an episode. What if outside interests could influence elections in a reasonably reliable way? Gosh, the largest ad-tech company on Earth is also one of the premiere leaders in AI. What if in some near-future dystopia, controlling the sovereignty of people in another region were reduced to a matter of investment? Financialization and arbitrage on a grand scale, neatly handled through technology, social media, etc. like, with hedge funds that would effectively bet on taking over the elections of say other countries, selling off control to the highest bidders? Or for that matter, entire states in the US? It seems possible, no longer entirely illegal, and I could imagine a few large energy companies that would love to own entire countries in Africa or Asia. What if that happens as a social media post-democracy?

Rose March 18, 2017 at 11:35 am

Hi Paco! Thanks for listening and writing such a thoughtful comment!

I may live in New York now but I was actually born and raised in California, and went to college there, and I’ll likely move back sooner than later! So I do love California. But I lived in Orange County and San Diego, and my family is from the Central Valley, so I grew up around conservatives. California on the whole skews left, that’s true, but what I was trying to point out is that in almost all the material I’ve read from California secessionists they paint this picture of a fully left utopia. Which erases whole lot of Californians!

As for your future, it’s an interesting idea! I think some would argue that that has already happened if not in the United States certainly in other countries. An interesting future to think about if it winds up spreading across the world! Rather than taking over countries by installing our hand picked leaders, what if the US took over countries using social engineering and algorithms? I like it!

Thanks again for listening!


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