Break away from the USA? The effort to cleave California faces its own split

If there’s one thing Jed Wheeler and Marcus Ruiz Evans agree on, it’s that things in California need to change.

The state sends too much money to Washington, they say, and is both politically and culturally out of step with a country that lacks its openness and vitality.

“We can solve our own problems and don’t need to wait on a government 3,000 miles away,” said Wheeler, echoing Evans’ suggestion that Democratic-leaning California would be far better off going it alone as a separate country.

They sharply disagree, though, on the matter of how and precisely when California should seek a divorce from the other 49 states.

Evans is pushing a ballot measure that would put the question of secession before voters in 2018, believing the time has never been so ripe to form a breakaway nation. Wheeler is working to create a pro-secession political party, looking a dozen or more years down the road when its candidates hold office, and fears that a premature vote would undermine the effort.

In short, the effort to cleave California faces a crackup of its own.

At least four proposals are floating about to reshape the state in some fashion, including two that would split up California along different axes. All work at cross-purposes, and the result is varied degrees of hostility among proponents; none of the plans seems likely to reach fruition anytime soon, if ever.

That is something they have in common.

Since 1849, when the state was remade in a rush of greed and ambition, there have been more than 200 efforts to split apart, pull away or otherwise reimagine the vast empire known as California. Not one has succeeded.

The latest, most conspicuous attempt, a proposed ballot initiative fueled by anti-Trump sentiments and titillated national media coverage (those wacky Californians!) seems destined to fall short of qualifying for the ballot, barring a sudden change in fortune.

Supporters of the measure, led by Evans, have until July 25 to collect nearly 600,000 valid signatures to place an independence measure before voters in November 2018. The group, which received the go-ahead to collect signatures at the end of January, has yet to reach a quarter of that number, according to the California secretary of state’s office.

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