Lord Dampnut vs The Free West

california-outline-and-flag-solidTrump thinks he can bully states into submission by threatening to take away their federal support. One problem: the states most likely to cross him are ones that receive less federal support than they pay in taxes. Cutting off California would be biting the hand that feeds his voting base in poor red states across the midwest and south. If the federal government stops sending money to California, then California may stop sending money to the federal government, and would suddenly have enough to replace all of that federal money and eliminate their debt in a year or two (ignoring other factors). Trump must be clueless about where his “federal money” comes from, or he simply doesn’t care about the people who voted for him.

This is why “alternative facts” are so dangerous. Trump’s loyal supporters are repeating his false claims that California sucks resources from the rest of the country in the form of welfare. This isn’t just false, it’s the complete opposite of reality. And since California intends to stand up to Trump’s bullying, he’s just perpetuating a social division that, taken to an extreme, could result in the west coast breaking off from the rest of the country. This stupidity and belligerence of Trump and his clueless supporters is the sort of thing that can fuel major geopolitical changes, and I don’t think they would like the outcome of this one. Chances are good that nobody would.

At the same time our votes in more populous states mean less for the federal government than in rural areas. We are being ruled by a minority we subsidize with our strong economic growth, our interests are under-represented, and they’re telling us this reality isn’t real. But what’s real is that the counties won by Hillary Clinton represent about two-thirds of the national economy, while Trump was elected mostly by counties that depend on Clinton counties for their survival.

And his ludicrous claims about high levels of violence, mostly about the whole country but sometimes directed at California specifically, are obviously false. There has been a small recent increase in crime across the country, which is in some part a symptom of the racism and division Trump brought to the surface of our culture. It’s worth paying attention to, but there’s a lot more to the graph than the last two years. Crime rates are still lower than they’ve been for more than fifty years aside from 2011 through 2014, where we reached our most peaceful in modern times…with our first African American president. Crime was at least twice as bad the year I was born, and I was born in the 90s.

Whenever California is in the news, I see ignorant people posting all over the internet about how Californians and liberals in general are evil authoritarian monsters who hate free speech, and also lazy sex addicts who want the government to take care of them, and also illegal immigrants who are stealing jobs that Americans don’t want to do. And to broadcast their hateful, self-contradicting message, they’re using technology and/or platforms provided by Californians, including a lot of immigrants. I find it annoying, and a little sad, that so many people are spending their time spreading angry and hateful stereotypes using free resources invented and provided by the very people they’re insulting.

In many ways, I think the west coast is a better place to live than much of the east and south. I’ve driven through all 48 contiguous states, lived in Washington, Kansas, Wisconsin, Indiana, and spent a lot of time in California, so I’ve seen and touched and smelled and tasted and heard the differences. I visited a lot of lovely places in the east, but the best part of my 9,100 mile road trip last summer was returning to the west, and there are numerous reasons I prefer living here.

There’s a growing movement in California to legally and peacefully secede and become a self-governed nation within the US (kind of like Scotland is part of the UK but separate from England). Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than just the superficial financial math, so I don’t know if it would actually work out for California to be an independent nation. In addition, for it to happen legally the states would have to approve it with a constitutional amendment, which seems unlikely. I’d think those dependent red states would somehow discover that they need California if it actually came down to a vote, but with Trump’s administration working so hard to create an alternate reality, I’m not sure anymore. They might just be so lost in their delusion that they think they’d be better off without California.

I know a lot of people will say it’ll never happen. America won’t break up or collapse, they say, but how do we know? Our nation is relatively young, and plenty of others have risen and fallen before us, regardless of how strong they once were. Most people remain complacent; they assume such big changes won’t happen in their country, they assume their demagogue will become more moderate after the election, they assume the authoritarian nationalist in charge of their government won’t round up the people he hates to have them killed. Those are the things that happen in other countries, worse countries, and theirs is inherently better, immune to the viruses of greed, tribalism, and authoritarianism that brought past empires to ruin.

Complacency like that is the reason those things happen. The argument of the complacent is what keeps them from preparing for catastrophes and preventing atrocities. They are the people to whom those things happen.

If Lord Dampnut* wants to play King George, then it’s time for the over-taxed and under-represented left coast to have our own tea party.

* Lord Dampnut is an anagram of Donald Trump

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