Californian values: a shared dream

This speech on Californian values and what that means was delivered by Jed Wheeler, our Vice Chairperson, at our March 2017 working convention.  It summarizes our goals and strategy over the next year as we register voters and build the movement for Californian independence.

My fellow Californians,

I want to start by thanking each of you for being here today, particularly the folks who flew or drove hella far or endured financial hardships to be here.  (I apologize for those of you not from the Bay Area, but as an Oaklander I had to include the word “hella” in my speech at least once!)

We are gathered here today because of a shared dream, a dream of a nation where our voices are heard and our values represented in the policies of our government. A nation that would never ban people because of their religion or tear apart families with mass deportations. A nation whose military does not engage in wars of aggression and rain bombs on other people’s children – children whose lives are every bit as precious as my little girl’s – while border guards turn away refugees. A nation where no one goes bankrupt or loses their home due to medical bills when they get sick and everyone has access to world-class healthcare. Remember that even under Obamacare, medical costs are still the leading cause of bankruptcy. If that’s the best we can hope for as part of America, then America’s best is not good enough for California!

We want a nation that takes real concrete action to mitigate climate change and that invests in the infrastructure needed to adapt and prepare for the changes we cannot stop. Where our forests and national parks are protected instead of being sold off to the highest bidder. Where no one is homeless, left out in the cold amidst incredible wealth. A nation where all people are equal before the law and police brutality and racial profiling are a thing of the past. And a nation where a child from East Oakland or rural Humboldt County has the same chance to learn and actualize their potential that children who come from wealthier backgrounds do.

I could go on, but I think you’ve got the point. You’ve all read our platform after all! When we talk about Californian values, this is what we mean.  This is the goal we are all working for.

When I wrote the first draft of that platform last year (and it’s important to note that many other people were involved in refining that first draft and adding their ideas, research, and passion to make it the document it is today) I could not have imagined the incredible upswell we’ve seen in support for this movement over the last few months. We have gone from a small but determined movement to one whose central idea – the independence of the Republic of California – is now shared by more than 13 million of our fellow Californians. That’s an incredibly powerful rejection of America’s bigotry and endorsement of our right to choose our own future.

Independence, however, is not enough on its own. And I have to emphasize this! There are plenty of people who would take an independent California and turn it into a playground for the super-wealthy, a place where the worst excesses of America’s me-first ethos run rampant. Where Sacramento continues to fail our poorest and most vulnerable people in urban and rural areas alike while our schools and infrastructure crumble around us. That’s not the future I want for our country!

A better California is possible, don’t ever doubt it! And that’s why we need to not just be the Party for independence, but a party for all Californians and a party that represents the best of the Californian ethos and spirit.

We are here today to work for independence, but more than that we are here to build that dream, the dream of a nation we can be proud of. And that’s a dream we do not have to wait for independence to start building. That’s why we’re talking about universal healthcare, for example, today. And that’s why it is so vitally important that we build the CNP into a real political party that can fight for our future, win elections, and build a better future for our kids here and now, while we work for independence over the long term.

We have an unprecedented opportunity. The Republican establishment in California has collapsed in California – discredited by their embrace of white nationalism in one of the most diverse nations on the planet. They now account for only 28.9% of registered voters – less than the 31% who already support independence. Their collapse leaves California with only 1 viable party in a system designed for two parties.

Now we, of course, want to switch to Proportional Representation and a multi-party system – something we can do before independence – but for now, democracy demands two functional parties at an absolute minimum.  Millions of Californians who are disgusted with the spinelessness and corruption of many Democrats have no credible opposition party that they can support instead. We will be that opposition! And once in office our candidates will work across the aisle whenever and wherever the Democrats are willing to do the right thing and fight them relentlessly when they choose the wrong side. And, in doing so, we will demonstrate our commitment to California and to our ideals, win the trust of California’s people, and win the democratic mandate we need to call for a mutually recognized and legally binding referendum on independence.

This will not be easy! All the work we’ve done up to this point is nothing compared to the work ahead. But Californians are known all over the world for our ability to do the impossible. That’s why we attract half of America’s investment capital and are the epicenter of the entire planet’s technology startup ecosystem. California has a lot of exports, but our most important export is this – we export the future!

So how do we get there?

The first step is we have to qualify as a political party. Doing that will make us the first pro-independence party in California’s history to qualify for the ballot, make the CNP the face of the independence movement around the world, and prove to the press and everyone else that this is a serious movement. It also means our candidates are automatically qualified and open up a huge amount of funding and data that we can use to grow the party from there. Now in normal years that would require around 50,000 registered voters, but California’s higher than normal turnout in November’s election has raised that bar a bit to 63,000.  We are a long way off from that goal! We don’t know the exact number of people registered with us yet, we’re still waiting on the Secretary of State’s office to respond to our request for an updated count, but even if every single person who Likes us on Facebook or Follows us on Twitter was registered, we’d still only be about 20% of the way there.

That’s a hell of a lot further than we were last June when we held our first leadership elections and our effort to build a viable political party began! But we have a long way to go between now and next January, which is our cutoff to qualify in this election cycle. Of course if we don’t quite make it, we’ll try again next year and we’ll keep trying until we get there. But I would really like to start 2018 as a member of the only unashamedly pro-California party on the ballot. So if you’re wondering what you can do to move the cause of independence forward, registering voters is the answer.

I want to pause to recognize those of my fellow Californians who do not have US citizenship and thus cannot register but are here to fight for our country. We see you. We appreciate you. You matter! And in an independent Republic of California there will be a path to citizenship for all Californians!

Now, for those of us who have the privilege of being able to vote, who here has changed your voter registration to CNP, can I get a show of hands?

Who here has gotten your spouse or partner to register? What about your parents, your friends, or your neighbors? By a show of hands, how many people have gotten at least one other person to register? And how many have gotten 5? Or 10?

I know these conversations are difficult, but this right here, going out and talking to our friends, families, and neighbors, is how we will transform this movement into California’s next major political party. Politics are tribal, parties vote for the people their families and friends vote for. So if we want to succeed we need to gather all our various tribes and have those difficult conversations. If every CNP member today got 10 people to register and those people each got 10 more to register, we’d be qualified as a party with a huge margin to spare.

Now many of you are already familiar with what I’m about to say, but I want to make sure we’re all clear on the answers to these common questions you’ll encounter as you’re out registering voters:

1 – Registering CNP does not mean you cannot vote for candidates from other parties. In fact, most of us will likely vote for other parties in most races since it will take time to recruit viable candidates of our own. In some races we may even cross-endorse if there is a candidate from another party who shares our values and is running a viable campaign.

2 – Registering is free, takes 5 minutes, and can be completed online. Don’t just ask people to register, walk them through the process and help them do it.
And, for all those skeptics you encounter, let them know you can be a skeptic on independence and still register CNP. This is a party that will fight for California by every peaceful and legal means available to us here and now. If they agree with the other 9 points in our platform, there is no other party that will fight to move those things forward as hard as we will. Get that person to register!

3 – You don’t have to be an urban liberal or progressive to support the CNP. Unlike the democrats, we are absolutely committed to representing rural and urban Californians both. That means working for water security for our farmers, stopping rural hospital closures, investing in schools for our rural communities, and addressing the host of other issues that currently fall on deaf ears in Sacramento.  This is a movement for all of California and we all have a stake in each other’s future.  It’s time to put aside hyper-partisan rhetoric of the Democrats and Republicans and start working together.

4 – Everyone who shares our values and vision is welcome in the CNP. Our entire leadership team is keenly aware that we need to work very hard to increase our diversity. California is one of the most diverse nations in the world and that diversity must be represented in our candidates for office and our party leadership. In the meantime, the CNP is absolutely committed to working for social justice and fighting for the interests of all Californians.

5 – One of my least-favorite questions we get is people asking (or just asserting) that we are led from Russia. When you hear this please politely but firmly state that we have no connection whatsoever to any foreign government and that the articles claiming the independence movement are led from Russia are about a separate organization to which we have no ties. In point of fact, the leadership of the CNP is all of you here in this room. We are all the leader!

At a fundamental level this movement is about the people of California rejecting the mental colonization that has told us – in defiance of all evidence – that we are incapable of governing ourselves and need people in Washington DC to run things for us. You can hear echoes of it in the people who call for California to join Canada – a nation with a significantly smaller population and economy than us – instead of working for independence. Why in the world would we trade one distant capital for another? What exactly would that accomplish? I am here to tell you that we – the people of California – are more than capable of governing ourselves and forging our own destiny. And when I think about who should be leading the charge I look to all of you – not DC, not Ottawa, and certainly not Moscow! This is – and must be – a movement of, by, and for the people of California.

Let me just leave you with this last thought.

History has pivot points. There are moments in time – rarely – when the world can change and we are living in one of those moments. I heard someone say the other day that it’s like living during the fall of the Roman Empire, but with smart phones – and it’s true!

We have an opportunity to change the world. Old systems, old ways of thinking, old identities are falling away. Millions of people who last year would have called themselves “Americans” would instead answer “Californian” today. And we have a chance now to open a dialogue about what that means. What do we mean when we say Californian values? What are our ideals, our dreams, and our aspirations? What is our place in the world and among the family of nations? Will we use our strength and our power to give a voice to the voiceless? Will we provide a sanctuary for the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free that America has turned its back on? Will we stand for humanity and for the millions of other species threatened by climate change? And will we create a nation where no one has to live in fear because of their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or religion? Will we finally recognize that we are bound together, that we need each other, that we all have a stake in each other’s future – from Klamath to San Diego?

We can no longer accept the me-first ethos that has driven such incredible divisions among our cousins to the east. Starting here, now, today, I would urge you all to start looking for ways that it can be all of us first. All of us together. All of us, Californians.

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