You know American politics is fraying when California liberals are plotting how to secede from the Union, Berkeley is the new poster child for suppressing free speech on college campuses, and fascist gangs dressed in black go around destroying property and physically assaulting people who hold differing political views — all while calling themselves “anti-fascists.”
It’s like National Opposite Day. What the county is lacking, among other things, is the historical knowledge that might temper such political passions. The California secession talk is a prime example.
It’s unclear how many California schoolchildren are still taught about Aaron Burr’s fateful duel with Alexander Hamilton. More than were taught a generation ago, I suspect, thanks to a certain Puerto Rican genius and his wildly successful Broadway musical. But I’d wager money that not one in a thousand Californians can tell you about the 1859 duel between David S. Terry, chief justice of the state Supreme Court, and David Broderick, one of the first U.S. senators sent to Washington from the Golden State.
Sen. Broderick did not die in vain. His death galvanized opposition to the pro-slavery “Chivalry” wing of California’s Democratic Party. The “Chivs” were transplanted Southerners who were maneuvering to either legalize slavery in California or divide the state in two, North from South. Fantasies about partitioning California are a recurring theme, pre-dating the state’s admission to the Union as a free state in 1850. But compromise isn’t what we do anymore. The latest fad, “Calexit,” involves exiting the USA altogether. Singularly ill-conceived, it’s generating a nationwide buzz. What the rest of the country wants to know is: Will they do it? Can they do it? What would happen then?