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What if California seceded from the United States? – Downside Up



You’ve probably seen the flashy tourism ads for California, glamorous movie stars, tech moguls and celebrities skiing down snow covered mountains or surfing waves at sunset, beckoning the rest of the world to come to the Golden State. For centuries, people have been fascinated with the West, chasing gold or adventure or escaping lives they’ve left behind, and California as this West as you can get the contiguous United States. Ever since it joined the Union in 1850 California has been a destination for dreamers and doers drawn by Hollywood, Silicon Valley, the state’s natural beauty and a sense of limitless possibility. California is where Walt Disney built his fantasyland and where George Lucas took us to a galaxy far, far away. It’s no wonder that another California tourism campaign called the state the land of what ifs.

Clip from a Visit California Commercial

00:00:52

Here in California, we believe in what if. After all, if is our middle name. Here we welcome all “what ifs?” with open arms.

But recently a darker what if question has started to take hold. What if California seceded from the United States?

Welcome back to Downside Up, a podcast from CNN exploring surprising and strange What If questions. I’m Chris Cillizza and today we’re grappling with the question “what if one of the biggest, most powerful states in the country decided it was time to just leave the union?” Could an independent California make it on its own? What would the rest of the United States be like if California left? And is secession even legal? Join us as we turn the American experiment downside up.

When most of us think about states seceding from the country, we naturally think about the Civil War. In the 1860s, slaveholding states left the Union and formed the Confederacy, and it led to the bloodiest war in American history, leaving somewhere between 620,000 and 750,000 soldiers dead. So let’s just say up top that if California seceding led to another war, it would probably be over pretty quickly.

Yeah. As a Californian, I don’t think we would be very effective going up against the U.S. military.

That’s Dr. Lee Ohanian, an economics professor at UCLA. And he doesn’t have much confidence in California’s ability to defeat the best funded military in the world. Warfare looks a lot different today than it did in the 1860s. So if California were to leave the country, it would potentially look more like a divorce than a war.

This would be a divorce. It could be a very expensive divorce. It’s a tall order for a state to secede from the union. You know, in the absence of creating a conflict, there would have to be some type of negotiated settlement between the state of California and the rest of the United States. The United States would lose a lot if California were to become an independent entity. California is the fifth largest economy in the world, the home to nearly 40 million people. It’s got some remarkable economic sectors, including the tech sectors of Silicon Valley and San Francisco. It’s home to a lot of entertainment. You know, it’s an enormous blockbuster economy. So, you know, the rest of the country, from an economic point of view, would not want to lose California.

It’s not entirely clear whether secession is even legal. But if a state tried to secede, it’d be a little more complicated than Steve Carell declaring bankruptcy on The Office.

Clip from The Office

00:03:31

I declare bankruptcy.

After the United Kingdom left the European Union in the infamous Brexit referendum in 2016 and following the election of Donald Trump later that same year, some Californians started pushing for a Calexit vote, a ballot initiative that would pave the way for California to leave the United States. But the U.S. is not the European Union, and there’s no process in the Constitution for how a state can leave.

Yeah, yeah. It’s complicated. It’s not as if “Hey, thanks. We’re out the door.”

This would be a breakup of the union. This would require an act of Congress.

That sounds pretty unlikely. Why in the world with the other 49 states ever want to give up the state with the fifth largest economy in the world? Well, one scenario could come down to politics. Let’s imagine a scenario involving the 2024 election. And remember, this is just a thought experiment, not a political prediction. Republicans win a congressional majority and the White House, maybe it’s Donald Trump 2.0. Maybe it’s Ron DeSantis. Maybe it’s someone we’ve never heard of. It doesn’t matter. The important thing here is that Californians all of a sudden decide they want out and the Republicans in control start to think that idea sounds pretty good.

California’s just very, very different. It’s a very liberal state, has been for the last 20, 25 years. So there are some quarters that probably be somewhat happy to say, yeah, you know what, California can go off and beyond. It sounds okay with me.

California has more electoral votes than any other state, 55, and it has the most congressional representatives, 53. 42 of which are Democrats. So if you’re a Republican in a position of power, it becomes a lot easier to maintain that power for a long, long time without all those reliable Democratic votes in the way. So as a pure power play, maybe Calexit doesn’t sound too bad.

Yeah. You know, from the standpoint of Republican president, that pesky fly that’s always buzzing around your head. Yeah. Wouldn’t you love to be able to get it out the door and close it?

So for the sake of argument, a Republican government is willing to help California out the door for political reasons. There are still a lot of economic reasons that they’d want to negotiate friendly terms for the divorce.

So a lot of divorces, there’s a lot of value lost. The two parties might feel like it’s best to be apart, but when they both separate, they take stuff with them. The other ones get a mess. So the rest of the 49 would want to make sure that they still had access to California goods and services, agricultural products, to technology. They would still want to make sure that they wanted to visit Disneyland or they wanted to take a vacation along the California coast. They could still do that without having to cross the border and showing your passport.

Americans are used to traveling and Californians rely on tourism for a big part of their economy and on a steady influx of other Americans to move there for work. So this is one open border that even Republicans might clamor for. No one wants to give up Disneyland, and there are good reasons to establish open trade, too.

So part of that divorce negotiated with the judge would have to be, hey, let’s try to make our future interactions from an economic point of view. Let’s try to make that as simple as possible. So the European Union is maybe a model for that. So within the European Union, you can cross borders. There’s essentially free trade. So we would expect to see something like that. That’s what the other 49 certainly would want. With 40 million people, California’s a high income state. California’s the leader in technology as we discuss health is also leader in agriculture. People often call the valley in California America’s breadbasket because of the weather and the soil. So much produce, so much agricultural production takes place in California. So you’re sitting in Nebraska and you’re eating a tomato and chances are that tomato came from California or that head of lettuce came from California.

A lot of people point out that when it comes to federal taxes, California is a net donor. They pay more into the U.S. tax base than they get back compared to smaller states like Wyoming, Alabama or Nebraska. So if they left the U.S. Dr. Ohanian estimates that California could potentially net $125 billion annually, even though they may be giving up things like Social Security, Medicaid and other federal dollars. And there’s a chance they’d have to pay some sort of upfront cost to leave as well. After all, you’ve got about 150 years of American investment in California. But let’s assume California wants out so badly that they’re willing to pay any cost. And our great big national divorce is finalized. Well, as King George sings in Hamilton, this is where things start to get real.

Clip from Hamilton

00:08:25

You’re on your own. Awesome. Wow. Do you have a clue what happens now?

The two biggest issues that California would really have to confront would be forming a national government. And that’s no small task.

No small task is an understatement.

Creating your own constitution, creating a national, independent entity. So that’s a big job. It’s also a big job to take on the task of protecting your people from the standpoint of an independent country. So suddenly, California would have to create their own militia.

The California Republic would need a national army. They need a new government and would need to hold a new national election. They’d maybe want a new national flag. They need a new national anthem. Goodbye to Francis Scott Key and perhaps hello to Tupac Shakur.

Clip from California Love

00:09:24

California knows how to party.

Yeah. That’d be my vote anyway. California would also need to build a central bank, a treasury and a currency. They’d have to establish their own embassies, treaties and trade policy.

So suddenly, California would be confronted with the idea of, well, okay, there’s 179 countries in the world, including the country we just left the US. Well, we’ve got to start from scratch and figure out how we’re going to economically deal with all of these new entities. And that would be a daunting task as well.

But Dr. Ohanian thinks that this may be one area where being a separate nation could actually work out better for Californians in the long run.

There’s some aspects of U.S. laws that probably aren’t working as well for California as California would like. So one area is with international trade and international economic relations. California is just a vibrant piece of the world economy. So one can imagine California engaging in much more liberalized tariff and trade negotiations with China, with Japan, with Singapore, with South Korea than what we have in place right now.

So I grew up in Connecticut and I love my home state, but they probably couldn’t be much of a player in terms of world trade. Few states can. But Dr. Ohanian thinks California is one of them.

We could also imagine that immigration policy is probably not working all that well for California. You can make the case the immigration policy, what we have written in the United States is 40 years old. The immigration policies we have in place are very much country quota based. So we take so many from Country A, somebody from Country B, California would love to see much more liberalized immigration laws.

Many of California’s biggest companies were founded by immigrants. If the United States won’t update its immigration policies, maybe an independent California republic could.

About half, in fact, even more than half of all successful tech startups are from immigrants. And these are remarkably talented, creative, super intelligent, highly skilled people from all over the world. And U.S. law makes incredibly difficult for those people to stay here. To the extent that California is the leader, you might make the case in the world for high technology with Silicon Valley and San Francisco, all the venture capital that funds these startups. Most of the venture capital world is in California. And you could imagine California would just love to be able to bring in the next Elon Musk. The next Sergey Brin really liberalize immigration laws.

But you could also imagine a scenario where Elon Musk threatens to leave an independent California over issues like higher taxes or left leaning politics. Actually, you don’t even have to imagine that one. It’s what Musk is doing right now.

Clip of Elon Musk

00:12:20

Yes, I have moved to Texas. So California’s been winning for a long time. And I think they’re taking it for granted.

And that might be where things become more complicated for California. California’s politics have moved further to the left than most of America’s in the past few decades, and balancing social ideals like, for example, universal health care or stronger climate policies, while also maintaining a friendly business environment, could be as tough of a road for an independent California as it currently is for the United States.

California is a high tax, high regulation state. To be honest, California is the first state to start a business that is typically ranked by CEOs as the worst place in the country to do business. So there’s a lot of concern, there’s a lot of frustration, there’s a lot of disappointment. And that ultimately falls on the backs of who’s in charge of politics.

Meanwhile, without the reliably liberal votes of California, it’s not hard to imagine the rest of the United States moving further to the right, doubling down on business friendly ideas, but also passing national abortion bans or reversing clean energy policies which could accelerate climate change even for Californians. Which begs the question, would secession even be worth it?

And so in the end, we have to do this because there’s no other way.

For us, California seceding may be a fun thought experiment. But for Sean Forbes, it’s a calling. He’s the president of the California National Party. They’re urging a California secession for two reasons. They don’t think California gets enough back from the rest of the United States.

I don’t think actually our power is appreciated enough or actually utilized well.

And he thinks an independent California would better live up to American values than the rest of the United States is doing right now.

I’m looking at it as something where we have to in order to sustain our values because the rest of the country is semi-okay with going into a darker direction. I think the four years of the trump administration has really already shown a catastrophe and that many people throughout the United States are okay with that catastrophe. I mean, we’ve had major issues that have really kind of cost us any kind of sense that the country is going a positive direction or can change towards a positive direction. And that’s our relationship with a lot of these red states.

He envisions a Calexit similar to the peaceful divorce that Dr. Ohanian outlined above. And he thinks that an independent California could offer an example of better government to the America that they leave behind. He thinks a system more similar to a European Parliament with proportional representation would work more effectively. And he argues, it would be better for Californians to even California Republicans.

California going independent allows a chance to wipe the slate clean when it comes to a lot of the constitutional frameworks. So again, we can have proportional representation where smaller parties have a say in California government, which they don’t know. If we wipe the slate clean, we have different parties come in, they have to do coalitions. They have to actually work together, come up with better ideas.

After the break, we’ll examine the philosophy and the legality behind the secession movement and hear from one expert who pictures a much darker scenario if California were to leave.

Welcome back to Downside Up. I’m Chris Cillizza. And today we’re imagining a world where California has succeeded from the United States. I’m particularly curious about what’s driven all this secession talk of late. Dr. Lee Ohanian, an economist at UCLA, thinks it may be the same set of forces that has led to so much dysfunction in national politics.

I think it probably can be traced back to a set of voters who think, you know what, life’s kind of passing me by. Politicians aren’t listening to me. Globalization is not working for me so well. My dad or mine was working in an auto plant or steel factory and making a great living and had a great pension. And and now I can’t get a $50 an hour job in that Ford factory, it’s $18 an hour. People are saying, I want a different way of life. I don’t see eye to eye with you. And I don’t see you doing a good enough job for me and I want to fire you. We saw that in 2016 when Trump surprised everybody getting elected. We still see that going on. We still see a country that’s being pushed further out to the edges.

There’s a growing discontent in American politics at almost every level, and that may be driving the conversation about secession, whether it’s in California, Texas or anywhere in between.

You might think it’s farfetched for California to secede, but the pot is bubbling.

But there may be something deeper here, too. In some ways, the philosophy behind secession may be baked into the very DNA of the United States. Richard Kreitner is the author of “Break It Up,” a book that charts the history of secession movements in America. And he believes this desire to break up has always been there.

Richard Kreitner

00:17:28

When was America ever really united? There’s really no moment in American political history where you can look and say, yep, that that was the moment we were all together. And I think it does go back to, you know, our political DNA or the very beginning of white colonial settlement in the Americas. The pilgrims were not called pilgrims in their day. They were called separatists because they wanted to separate or secede from the Church of England and establish their own churches. And that was illegal, and that was why they left. So America, in that sense, is founded at the very, very beginning by separatists. And then, of course, the American Revolution, the founding event of our country, is an act of secession from the British Empire.

We love this story of Americans coming together to defeat the British Empire and form their own nation. But they did this out of necessity and a common enemy. The 13 colonies actually didn’t have that much in common, says Kreitner.

Richard Kreitner

00:18:17

They didn’t want to have anything to do with one another. The whole idea of coming to America was to be disunited and divided, and it was only very reluctantly that they joined together in what some thought a temporary alliance to fight against the British Empire and the creation of the country in that sense was kind of a means to the end of winning independence and not an end in itself. And a lot of people had doubts about the overall enterprise right from the beginning.

Even our country’s name, the United States of America, hints at a sense that our union is more forced than it is natural.

Richard Kreitner

00:18:46

A lot of people don’t think about, you know, what a weird name that is for a country. But the actual name was crafted by a guy named John Dickinson, who was tasked with drawing up the first American Constitution, the Articles of Confederation. It’s a claim that that which has not been united heretofore is going to be united from here on out, and that in time, the country will become the proof that this name was actually accurate in a way that when it was given, it was not. But what’s interesting about Dickinson is that he’s the only guy who voted against the Declaration of Independence at the Continental Congress. And the reason why he voted against it was because he thought the country was not united enough.

Richard Kreitner

00:19:21

He also coined the slogan several years earlier, United We Stand, Divided We Fall, which was this great revolutionary song. But when he was looking around in 1776, he saw all these conflicts over land, over taxes, over representation, over slavery. And he thought that the country, if it declared independence from Britain before deciding on a constitution, before forming a union together, would fall apart into some kind of vicious civil war. So he voted against the Declaration of Independence, even though at the same time kind of leaving the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in a huff he dropped on their desk. The first draft of the Articles of Confederation, which begins the name of this country, shall be the United States of America. So this sense of like this unity is embedded right there in the very name that we, you know, so blithely talk about, you know, Joe Biden very solemnly. We are the United States of America.

Clip of Joe Biden

00:20:04

We are the United States of America. There’s not a single thing we cannot do if we do it together.

Richard Kreitner

00:20:14

Behind that, underneath that is this whole story of disunity. Right from the very beginning.

Kreitner believes that unity has always been more aspirational than realistic. Maybe it’s just the law of entropy, but the United States has always been on the verge of breaking up. We all know the big one. In 1861, following the election of Abraham Lincoln, the South seceded to preserve slavery, leading to a four year civil war. But did you know that before the Civil War, parts of the North actually wanted to leave the country.

Richard Kreitner

00:20:42

For the longest time until 1860, 1861, The Association of Disunionism in American Politics was with the North, not with the South, because there were these Northern abolitionists who were going around very loudly calling for a disunion of the country.

Similar to Sean Forbes and the California National Party’s argument for an independent California. Abolitionists thought the best way to preserve their American ideals was to leave America. But after the war, the country spent decades hoping to avoid a conflict like that one ever again.

Richard Kreitner

00:21:12

The Civil War was a massive national trauma, after which we kind of repressed the cause of the dispute, which was slavery. But it was also this question of secession. How united are we, really? And nobody wanted to run the risk of another civil war, which is how you have reconstruction come to an end, because the North says we’re not going to send troops once again to enforce the Constitution and majority rule in the South.

Kreitner believes that the decade following the Civil War, a period known as reconstruction, might have been our best moment to really become a United States of America and embrace a multiracial democracy across the country. Instead, to avoid further war, the North capitulated to Southern demands, and the country also argued that secession was illegal.

Richard Kreitner

00:21:56

The U.S. Constitution does not have a provision for secession. There is a Supreme Court ruling which a lot of people will kind of trumpet or trot out there from 1869, Texas, V White in which the Supreme Court said, no, you can’t succeed. The Confederate government of Texas was not a legitimate institution. You can’t secede from the United States. But that’s only backed by the force of union arms. You know, the union won the war, and that’s why secession is illegal in the United States or was deemed illegal in the United States.

In other words, secession was illegal because the union defeated the secessionists. If the South had won the war, then secession would very obviously have been legal. And if California decided to test the waters today, we’d have to see what happens. It’s worth noting that California’s state constitution declares it a, quote, inseparable part and quote of the United States. Secession efforts like the California National Party are hoping for would require a change to the state constitution, as well as several other tough hoops to jump through. But Kreitner doesn’t think that the original colonies would have ever created the United States if they thought they’d be stuck in it permanently.

Richard Kreitner

00:22:59

Say what you will about them. And I would say a lot. The Confederates kind of had a point about the legality of secession. I think that the states that joined the Union in 1788, they ratified the Constitution. Not a single one would have if the assumption was you can never leave. You know, you’re joining this constitution, you can never leave.

In fact, some of the nation’s founders assumed that California would eventually be its own country in some combination with Oregon and Washington state.

Richard Kreitner

00:23:24

You know, California plus Oregon plus Washington has always been something that’s been bandied about even back to the 1840s, you know, before California joined the union. There’s this idea that the Pacific Coast would be its own separate republic. Thomas Jefferson supported that. Daniel Webster supported that. A lot of people thought that it was just too far and too different from the rest of the United States. And there should be this separate Pacific Republic populated by Americans allied with the United States, but independent from it. And that idea has continued, of course, through the 20th century.

That’s a scenario that he believes would work better than just a separate California, because California isn’t much more united than the United States. Los Angeles is very different from the Inland Empire or San Diego. The O.C. has very little in common with farm fields of the Central Valley. San Francisco is different from Eureka, which is different from Sacramento. These days, the urban and rural divide is more pronounced in America than the state divides, argues Kreitner.

Richard Kreitner

00:24:20

Certainly the divide in American politics today is much more urban versus rural than state by state. You know what state somebody lives in doesn’t tell you a whole lot about which way they’re going to vote. Something like 46% of Texans voted for Joe Biden in the presidential election. So it’s not even like small minorities at all. And that’s true in California. I saw something recently that the state with the most Trump voters by number is California.

That’s right. In terms of pure numbers, there were more Trump voters in California than in any other state in the country. That’s something an independent California would have to account for. And it’s why Kreitner thinks a real California secession movement would be a lot messier than the amicable divorce described by Dr. Lee Ohanian and Sean Forbes.

Richard Kreitner

00:25:03

I do think that if it were to happen, it would not look like Scotland’s referendum on independence or even Brexit, where it’s just a peace time referendum, where the negotiations are opened, which is probably what the California separatists that you’re talking to are imagining. I think it’s much more likely that California’s secession or any other state secession is the consequence of some kind of massive political crisis in the United States rather than the cause of it. You know, it’s going to be a response to a disputed presidential election or to pretenders to the presidency, something like that, where everything is kind of falling apart and states decide to pick up the pieces and reconstitute political authority at a more local level.

The spike in secession talk is a sign that Americans are frustrated with their current political reality almost at every level. But it’s also a threat that’s been there for a long time.

Richard Kreitner

00:25:54

I mean, all throughout American history, you have people playing both sides. You know, it’s like today where Californians, after the 2016 election, Trump is elected, are thinking about sucession and saying we should be our own independent country. And then Biden wins and you have Texas talking about it. And all the liberals are like, No, you can’t do that. That’s treasonous.

He’s right. These days, you’re more likely to hear Senator Ted Cruz talking about Texit than to hear about a real Calexit movement. Cruz says he wasn’t there yet, but-

Clip of Ted Cruz

00:26:21

And if there comes a point. Where it’s hopeless, then I think we take NASA, we take the military, we take the oil.

And that’s the thing. Secession has always been a very effective threat for states to get what they want.

Richard Kreitner

00:26:35

It’s this kind of ready to hand solution to any intractable political or even social dispute or even economic or religious dispute back in the day. You know, if you’re unhappy with the way things are going, you could just pick up and move on that instinct, as in peanuts, you know, take the ball and go home, it’s kind of a very common one in American politics.

California has a lot of political power these days. Vice President Kamala Harris is a Californian. The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and the top Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy, are also Californians. Without California, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan would have never reached the White House. States like Texas and California have a lot of sway over the direction of the United States, even when they’re frustrated and rather than taking their ball and going home. The harder work may be forcing the United States to live up to its name and to its promise and to actually be united.

Richard Kreitner

00:27:26

When you look over the course of American history, we’ve never really been united because even at the moments where you think that we are, such as in the post-World War II era, you still have racial apartheid in the United States. You know, there have always been people left out from whatever claims to unity there have even been in the first place at this time where we’re finally trying to make good on the promises of reconstruction, the founding ideals in a way that’s actually never been done before. We’re either going to go one way or the other way, or they’re going to do that and accomplish that, consummate that, you might say, or we’re not. And if we don’t, the only other option is either, one can break up, you know, we can dissolve into constituent parts of one form or another, or you’re going to have some kind of totalitarianism over the entire country. And seems to me that of those two options, a dissolution, a breakup is the superior option. I still hope we avoid it. I still hope that we go down the path of multiracial democracy and finishing the work of reconstruction.

So while it’s fun to daydream about what an independent California or an independent Texas might look like, the reality of getting to that point may create a whole host of new problems. And if the expression of succession is really the bubbling up with frustrations about how America works today, we may want to try reforming this country before we start to reform a bunch of new countries.

And now it’s time for Richard Kreitner to join me for a little trivia about California and secession. Okay. Question one. After European colonization, California has been a part of what, three nations? What three nations has California been a part of?

Richard Kreitner

00:29:08

After European colonization that would be Spain, Mexico and the United States, although there was a three week period where it was its own country, you know, according to some.

Boom, eat that trivia people. He got that plus extra credit. Question number two, even though you really aced question number one. So I’m optimistic. California was the 31st state admitted to the union. It joined in 1850. Name either the 30th state or the 32nd state. Do you want a hint?

Richard Kreitner

00:29:35

No.

Love it. No hint. That’s my kind of guy.

Richard Kreitner

00:29:41

What, Texas? Would be the- the 30th?

No. But you still can name the 30- I’m giving you two guesses because there’s two states, 30th or the 32nd. I’m giving you your hint. Both states are in the Midwest.

Richard Kreitner

00:29:58

Maybe Kansas would be the 32nd.

Richard Kreitner

00:30:03

Oh, wow.

The bigger hint was the 32nd was the original home for the Los Angeles Lakers. Would you have gotten it if I gave you that?

Richard Kreitner

00:30:10

That’d be Minnesota.

Richard Kreitner

00:30:12

I would have gotten that.

Yeah, that’s what I figured. I only gave you half of the hint. Okay, question three. If you get this one, I’m going to be extremely impressed. In San Francisco in 1859 this man proclaimed himself emperor of the United States and later called himself protector of Mexico. Mark Twain based the character of the King in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn off of him, name that man.

Richard Kreitner

00:30:37

I have no idea.

Richard Kreitner

00:30:40

I’m gonna write that down.

Joshua Norton was born in England. Grew up in South Africa and somehow made his way to San Francisco in the late 1840s. In 1859, he declared himself Emperor of the United States, and for the rest of his life was treated with something like bemused kindness by the people of San Francisco. Even created his own currency that some places in town actually accepted. When he died in 1880, 10,000 people turned up for his funeral. Today, it’s something of a folk hero, and there are still efforts to get the Bay Bridge named after him. Okay, here we go. We’re going from the sublime to the ridiculous. Question four: in this popular post-apocalyptic video game series, the U.S. has collapsed in a new republic of California has emerged. They even have a new flag with a mutant two headed bear. Name the series, which refers to the aftermath of nuclear war.

Richard Kreitner

00:31:31

Would that be Fallout?

Yes, it would be Fallout. I have heard. Way to show your breadth of knowledge. Okay, last one. Question number five. California has more national parks than any other state in the country. How many are there? And I’m going to say within five. How many are there within five more national parks than any other state in the country.

Richard Kreitner

00:31:57

18.

Nine. Which if we do five. You came close, but not right. For those of you playing along at home, the nine parks are Joshua Tree, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Redwood, Lassen Volcanic, Point Reyes, Channel Islands, Death Valley, Pinnacles and yes, Yosemite. Thank you to Richard Kramer for joining us for trivia this week. Two out of five isn’t that bad. And these were some of the hardest trivia questions we’ve had so far. Hopefully, Richard isn’t going to take his ball and go home now.

So what would a world look like if California seceded? Well, if we put on our rose colored glasses and imagine the best case scenario, we go through a somewhat peaceful divorce, leaving a very liberal California, a very conservative United States, and open trade and travel between the two. But if we look at the darkest timeline, well, maybe other states start to secede, too, and the entire American experiment collapses. Fun times. Thank you to Dr. Leo Ohanian, Sean Forbes and Richard Kreitner for joining us in our big thought experiment today. Let me know your thoughts on whether California should leave the U.S. by tweeting me at Chris C-I-L-L-I-Z-Z-A. And if you’ve got ideas for future topics, please send those to me too. Also, if you like our show, share it with your friends and make sure you rate review and subscribe.

Next time on Downside Up: What if the NCAA didn’t exist? What would sports look like in the United States?

We often lose track of the fact that what we’re talking about is a multibillion dollar entertainment industry that is embedded in our institutions of higher education.

Downside Up is hosted by me, Chris Cillizza. It’s a production of CNN in collaboration with Pod People. At CNN our producer is Lori Galarreta, and our executive producer is Abbie Fentress Swanson. Alexander McCall leads audience strategy for the show. Tameeka Ballance-Kolasny is our production manager and Jamus Andrest and Nichole Pesaru designed our artwork.

The team from Pod People includes Rachael King, Matt Sav, Aimee Machado, John Hammontree, Madison Lusby, Regina de Heer, and Morgan Fouse.

Theme and original music composed by Casey Holford. Additional music came from epidemic sound.

Special thanks to Lindsay Abrams, Fuzz Hogan, Drew Shankman, Lisa Namerow, John Dianora, Katie Hinman, Robert Mathers, and Sarina Singh.

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