Announcements by Gov. Newsom bring California Independence unprecedented Global attention.
On Monday, April 13, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a surprising announcement that the Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington had made a mutual agreement as to how the three West Coast states would respond to the Global Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020. Within hours, U.S. President Donald Trump responded by declaring at an official White House press briefing that he has “total authority” as to when and how states like California, Oregon, and Washington would respond to the threat of COVID-19. The tirade of Trump was roundly criticized by legal analysts familiar with the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the basic principles of Federalism.
The announcement by Newsom came the same day as seven states in the Northeastern U.S., Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island declared that they had formed a similar agreement. It is unclear which combination had upset Trump more, but his declaration of absolute power was motivated by these moves that discredited his admnistration..
The statement by Gov. Newsom, highlighted after-the-fact by Trump, drew unprecedented attention to the potential for states, alone and in combination with other states, to form new federations independent of the United States. For example, Rob Cox, writing from Zurich, Switzerland for Reuters, discussed whether “The Great Lockdown” would lead to a “Great Breakup” of the United States, two days after the announcement by ten states of the United States. Likewise, the liberal news and analysis site Daily Kos, a publication that has always been hostile to secession by any state for any reason, posted an official commentary with this stunning headline:
Trump declares himself a dictator. Blue-state governors organize. A breakup is now on the table
One key factor in this controversy has been that Gov. Newsom has repeatedly described California as a “nation-state,” usually to justify some particularly dramatic assertion of sovereignty. For example, on April 9, the week before Gov. Newsom announced the new West Coast “pact,” Francis Wilkinson, writing in Bloomberg News, tied Newsom’s use of the “nation-state” phrase to describe a litany of economic, cultural, and political reasons why California occupies a situation distinctly different from states with less people and less economic capacity.
Another commentator, Alfred Jalife-Rahme, writing in the Mexican publication La Jornada, (English translation here, by the Californa Liberation Movement), points out that Newsom’s phrase “nation-state” — if he means it that way — carries with it significant historical weight, connecting California to the struggle of various European people’s for self-determination in the 19th and 20th centuries. Wilkinson, on the other hand, merely suggests that — unless events transpire differently — scholars and commentators will be examining the “Articles of Confederation” by which the United States was organized before the ratification of the U.S. Constitution with unprecedented attention.