Monday, April 20, 2020




          Gov. Gavin Newsom repeatedly calls California a “nation state,” employing a phrase not used by any other governor in memory.

President Trump mocks the federal system, first saying emergency responses are up to individual state governors, not the central government, and then saying the opposite, that he has “total authority.” He first suggests that medical suppliers ignore orders from states whose governors “don’t treat us right” and then claims he’s taking care of everyone.

These are new things in America. They could enlarge the existing, very small movement for a “Calexit,” secession from the union by California, progenitor of the world’s fifth-largest economy.

For sure, pandemics don’t happen often, but when they become devastatingly large, they can dramatically change the course of human history. So it was when the Antonine Plague of 165 AD killed over 5 million persons and decimated the Roman army, leading to the first barbarian victories over that empire’s vaunted legions.

          It happened again with the Bubonic Plague of 1347 to 1353, which many historians say delayed the Renaissance a century by killing off many young artists and politicians whose work hinted at what actually came about 100 years later. Smallpox killed off most American Indians, making it far easier for white Europeans to spread across this continent.

          No one can be sure today’s coronavirus pandemic will have similarly historic effects. But so far, it has killed more than 35,000 Americans, the number growing from moment to moment.

          Speculation abounds on how the pandemic might change this country. For example, the ApartmentList website, closely tracking national housing trends, predicts rents will fall and the long pattern of urbanization will pause.

          There’s also a possibility coupling the virus and President Trump’s style of leadership as it rages might even alter America’s continental borders, static since the Civil War.

The Yes, California! organization tried and failed to put a preliminary secession ballot initiative on the 2018 midterm election ballot. Had it gotten a vote, and won, it might have led to an actual vote on this state going its own way.

          Now that movement’s current prime organizer, Marcus Ruiz Evans of Fresno, reports that his and other blogs are seeing unusual numbers of pro-secession posts from individuals not linked to the movement.

          Ruiz says often Trump gives his movement impetus, even though he tends to walk back many of his pronouncements within hours or days.

          “Trump has already talked about cutting off travel to and from California,” Ruiz said. “Then he threatened to cut off parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut with a strictly-enforced quarantine letting nothing and nobody move in or out of that area for two weeks.”

          He backed off the Tri-State quarantine after Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it would be “a declaration of war” on his state.

          Gavin Newsom hasn’t used words as strong as those, but took this state on a path starkly different than any Trump previously recommended.

          And when Trump suggested that businesses, churches and individuals return to normal life by April 12, Easter Sunday, one normally conservative California columnist suggested California should instantly declare independence if Trump did that. Trump backed off that idea, too.

          For sure, Trump’s inconsistent, ego-driven leadership style in this crisis promoted a rift between states and the federal government, one that secessionist Ruiz may try to exploit.

          “Everyone in the Calexit movement would agree that the only way to guarantee the ‘proper’ government reaction to this crisis would be for California to have full control over its resources and borders,” he said. “We think Californians know that already, but just won’t say it publicly. We think the governor is already aware that his people think that way. He just won’t say it blatantly.”

          In fact, when asked about Calexit during an interview while he was a candidate in 2018, Newsom adamantly opposed secession.

          But, says Ruiz, “we’ve seen the pickup in people talking about secession (on social media) and then thousands of other Californians ‘liking’ their posts.”

          Plainly, it may be years before the full after-effects of the coronavirus are known. One of those just might be a California future vastly different from its past and present.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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