Our analysis shows that California would become far more Californian politically as a result of CALEXIT (California independence). Specifically, California’s progressive reputation would attract progressive voters from around the country, and scare away some existing CA (Californian) voters (both CA-born and not CA-born).
Also, see below for an explanation of why the successful secession of a state from the US would force the federal government to allow states’ rights to avoid the secession of more states.
CA secession affects the US electorate in three ways:
First, without CA votes, it is harder for Democrats to win US elections.
Second, some CA conservatives would leave the state after CALEXIT. This would affect the electorate, and therefore future election results, in CA and the other 49 states.
Third, quite a few progressive voters would leave the US for CA.
Effect of CALEXIT on CA:
It’s hard to guess what percentage would move. 6% of Americans move out-of-county every year. In 2015, 2.5% of Americans moved to another state. 30% of Americans don’t live in their state of birth. Only 54% of CA residents were born in CA. 25% of people born in California live in another state now. According to polls, the reasons people give for moving are often rather trivial, much more trivial than secession. In a Harris poll of Americans who moved out of state, the most popular reason they moved was climate, cited by 52% of those polled.
We know that if conservatives leave CA, they will bring some liberals with them because of family ties. But if we guess that the net effect of Trump voters leaving is to reduce the Trump vote in CA by 25% (1.1 million voters), then the effect on future CA elections is about 9 percentage points. Some non-voters would leave too, but that won’t affect elections.
Another reason Californians might sell their homes and leave is to take advantage of the increased housing prices caused by the influx of liberals following the referendum.
If we guess that 3.9% of Hillary voters and Green Party voters in the 49 states would move to CA, that’s about 2.2 million voters. The population of CA is 40 million, so that would have a significant affect on CA. Plus the voters would bring non-voting family members. And some non-voting families would move too.
In 2016, CA Hillary and Green Party voters outvoted CA Trump and Libertarian voters by a ratio of 2 to 1. If CALEXIT and this associated migration had all occurred before the 2016 election, they would have outvoted them 3 to 1. Instead of 64% to 35%, the election in CA would have been 74% to 25%.
Effect of CALEXIT on the USA
With the migrations described above, CALEXIT would have caused Trump to win three additional states in 2016: NH, NV, and MN. The gain of conservatives from CA would increase the Trump voters in the average state by about 1.8%, which would make a difference of only 0.9 percentage points in US elections. The loss of 3.9% of Hillary voters from each state would translate into a loss of about 1.8 percentage points in US elections. For example, the effect of this 2.7 point change on a state that voted for Hillary 51.35/48.65 would change the vote to 50/50. In 2016, CA accounted for 55 electoral votes and NH, NV, and MN accounted for 20 electoral votes. With CALEXIT, electoral votes would have been redistributed but the final result would have been that Trump would have won with 68% of the electoral votes instead of 57%.
In our analysis, we did not distribute these migrations evenly, but rather based on state-by-state data on where Californians tend to move, and which states tend to send people to CA.
The Trump-Hillary election results showed most purple states were evenly divided. Even with CALEXIT, Hillary still could have won the 2016 election if she had won another 1.5% of the electorate in Florida. In other words, CALEXIT has little numerical effect on US politics even with the significant migrations described above. Neither CALEXIT nor TEXIT change the fact that any party that can win Florida is likely to win the presidency. They just make it harder or easier to win Florida because of migration to and from Florida.
Obama and Bill Clinton each won two crushing victories, which would not have been reversed by CALEXIT. But CALEXIT would have brought Romney within a couple electoral votes of victory (winning FL and NV).
Much more important than state secession is the fact that the US government gives citizenship to almost a million foreigners each year, most of whom vote Democrat. And the Constitution puts no limit on how many foreigners can be given citizenship.
In the last 30 years, all presidential election wins for Republicans were very close. The main effect of CALEXIT on the USA is that it would give conservatives a bigger shot at winning the presidency due to our estimate that the 49 states would have a gain of 2.2 million conservatives and a loss of 1.2 million liberals. In other words, it would reverse the effects of more than a decade worth of immigration.
The fact is that the average US voter, over the decades, has been moving so far to the Left that conservatives can only win by a small margin (as proven by George Bush twice and Trump once), but progressives can win by huge margins (as proven by Clinton and Obama). Indeed, Obama won by 9 million votes in 2008.
The 9th circuit court of federal appeals would also become more conservative without CA judges. Each state would become slightly redder, having an effect on state and local races. And the position of conservatives in Congress would improve. The USA would be 12% less populous without CA. Each state would have somewhat more say Washington DC without CA votes.
Migrations would be different if CALEXIT leads other states to secede:
An important question is whether other states would choose to secede after CA proves that it is possible and peaceful. These could be blue states, such as Hawaii and Nevada, or red states such as Texas and Alaska. Texas secession (TEXIT) would almost cancel out the effects of CALEXIT on the remaining 48 states. If all the red states secede or all the blue states secede, the migration would be between the blue-state country and the red-state country.
Why is CALEXIT a good thing for liberals outside CA?
The most important effect of CALEXIT is giving people another option. Secession creates a new country that Americans may move to, free of the US federal government and its presidents, Supreme Court, Congress, and bureaucracy. Migrations would cause CA to become more progressive than any state has ever been.
And if secession becomes reality, the US government will be forced to take federalism (states’ rights) seriously to convince other states not to leave. For the first time since 1865, states would have leverage over the federal government. If state use their leverage effectively, they could avoid much interference by the federal government. This means that blue states in the USA could embrace progressive policies that are stymied at the federal level. Ironically, even after the federal government becomes more conservative, blue states could enact progressive policies that the federal government does not currently allow.
If the federal government does not respect federalism even after CALEXIT, CA would provide the precedent needed for other states to secede. CALEXIT would provide a sizable self-sufficient core for a new federation.
American progressives who wouldn’t want to move to an independent California have to consider which is more important for their state: the positives or the negatives. The positives are the increase in federalism and the demonstration of a pathway to secession of their own state. The negatives are that the USA would be 12% smaller, and the migration would make their state slightly more conservative. However, if their blue state begins an effort to secede soon after California’s referendum, then their state might not suffer a migration.
When CALEXIT happens, it is likely that Texas will follow the precedent, balancing off the effect. If both CALEXIT and TEXIT had occurred prior to 2016, Trump would have won New Hampshire and Nevada. Also California has more electoral votes than Texas, and both would be seceded. So Trump would have won by 63% of the electoral votes instead of 57% of the electoral votes. But if Hillary had won another 0.7% of the electorate in each of these states: FL, WI, PA, MI, NH, and NV, she would have won the election. So Democrats would certainly still have an advantage in the 48-state Union, but not as much as they do in the USA today.