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Commentary | PATT MORRISON

And Arnold Could Be Its President ...

September 29, 2004|PATT MORRISON | Patt Morrison's e-mail address is patt.morrison@latimes.com.

California, here we go. Again.

For 25 glorious days in the summer of 1846, the Bear Flag flew over an independent nation, the California Republic. The time has come once more to "dissolve the political bands" that bind, specifically the ones that tether us to the United States like a milk cow to a Conestoga wagon. The time has come to make California a republic again.

Enough people to populate a Gold Rush town have told me that if Nov. 2 results in another four years of tyranny Texas-style, they'll be scouting for somewhere else to live. Fourscore and some years ago, the Hemingway/Fitzgerald crowd fled these shores to be able to drink legally. Now people are convinced they'll have to flee these shores to be able to think legally. Ladies, gentlemen -- stop packing. The California Republic is the answer, the way to live abroad with all the comforts of home.

We've given this statehood business a good shot -- 154 years. But it just isn't working out. Only this week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill of surrender, restoring the state's primary election to June. We Californians had moved it to March in a desperate attempt to become as big a player in presidential primaries as, oh, South Carolina. Didn't work. Let's cut our losses and cut ourselves loose.

How hard could nationhood be? California has always cut the cloth on its own pattern, which drives the Beltway boys nuts.

The feds, for example, dropped their ban on assault weapons last week; California's is still in place. A California Republic could add to those "got-any-produce-or-plants?" checkpoints the question, "Any AK-47s?"

The Bush administration has bumped millions of workers off the overtime-eligibility rolls; California workers, with their own overtime protection laws, are virtually unaffected. The federal minimum wage is $5.15 an hour, and it hasn't gone up in seven years; California's minimum wage, albeit the lowest on the West Coast, is still $1.60 an hour higher. Schwarzenegger just vetoed an increase, but that's what the California recall is for.

Congress won't order U.S. automakers to make cleaner or more fuel-efficient cars? Schwarzenegger signed a bill green-lighting hybrid cars for carpool lanes, and he's endorsed new, strict California auto emission standards over the whining of Detroit's girlie men.

The White House storms against gay marriage as a dagger to the heart of American values; Schwarzenegger just signed a bill obligating insurance companies to sell homosexual partners the same policies they'd sell to heterosexual spouses.

Nationhood would mean the California Republic, with more cars and trucks than drivers, could sign the Kyoto environmental accord. It could dump NAFTA and negotiate its own trade pacts to match its social policies. We could, for example, thumb our nose -- or hold it -- at the U.S. Supreme Court ruling and insist that Mexican trucks entering California meet the same pollution and safety standards as domestic trucks.

Other states would be welcome to join; if New York decided to seal itself to California, we'd be like the original Pakistan, two parts of the same country on opposite sides of an even bigger one, the bicoastal nation of Californyork.

We'd have to try for more dignity than the original Bear Flag rebels, Yankee ruffians who had heard the Mexican government might be booting them out of California for being undesirable illegal aliens. (How comical can history be?) They ran a homemade flag up a pole in the town square of Sonoma, a remnant of muslin with a red stripe made from a flannel petticoat. One William Todd drew the flag's bear and the star and the words "California Republic." He left out an "I" and had to ink it in later. The Mexicans muttered that the animal looked more like a pig.

Admit it, nationhood would be fun. We have everything we need: the world's fifth- or sixth-largest economy (it depends on how energetic the French are feeling in a given week), more Nobel laureates than anywhere else in the world, Yosemite, Death Valley, the Pacific, the Mojave, the redwoods and the best wine west of Bordeaux.

We have Hollywood, North America's biggest port complex and the San Joaquin Valley, breadbasket to the world. For my friends considering emigration, the new California Republic could be like the motherland, only an even more perfect union. We could have a Healthy Forests measure that actually protects forests, a Clear Skies measure that actually cleans up the sky and a Patriot Act that is actually about patriotism.

Brian Wilson could write us a national anthem. Willie Brown could be our U.N. representative, and Warren Beatty could be California's ambassador to the United States. Schwarzenegger could get elected California's president without all that silly bother about constitutional amendments, and get that presidential library in L.A. after all, just like in the movie "Demolition Man."

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