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The US President is in turmoil as his Democrat opponent, Joe Biden, soars into a 17-point lead with less than three weeks until results come in. Polls indicate Mr Trump could be struggling in a number of key swing states after his battle with coronavirus and hostile debate with Mr Biden. California is a safe state for the Democrats, having backed Hillary Clinton in 2016 with just over 60 percent of the vote while Mr Trump took just 31 percent. The Public Policy Institute of California’s polling this time round puts Mr Biden in an identical lead – 60 percent to 31 percent. While the Republicans won’t be expecting success in California, the state could cause problems later on if Mr Trump wins a second term as President.
In recent years, divides both within the state, and between California and the rest of the US, have sparked at least six initiatives aimed at breaking the Golden State into smaller states or cleaving it entirely from the rest of the country.
One of these is called ‘Yes California’ – a political action group that promotes the independence of the state of California from the US.
According to Monica Toft, a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Boston, arguments in support of these plans include the belief that the federal government no longer represents California’s economic interests.
They argue that the state is so large that proper governance is only possible if applied across a smaller geographic scale, and that differences have emerged between what California and the rest of the US stand for.
Professor Toft warned that tensions could plausibly go as far as civil war, although this is unlikely.
She said: “It seems unfathomable that the US would have another war of secession, but I think if you talked to people in the mid-19th Century they would have said the same thing.
“The US is not immune to this.”
California is not expected to secede any time soon, as a constitutional law denies states the right to secession, and there’s scant evidence that the majority of California’s citizens actually want to leave.
A 2017 survey of 1,000 Californians conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, found that a bipartisan 68 percent opposed such initiatives.
Whether the US Government opted to try to forcibly prevent California from leaving would largely depend on who was leading the country at the time and how they felt about secession, says Stephen Saideman, an international affairs professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
He said last year: “Republicans might actually say ‘good riddance’, whereas Democrats might say ‘we’ve got to keep California or we might be marginalised forever.'”
President Trump angered many Californians when he blamed the state for the devastating impact of wildfires.
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He said in August: “I said you’ve got to clean your floors, you got to clean your forests. Maybe we’re just going to have to make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us.”
Mr Biden said last month: “To the families who have lost everything; to the people forced to evacuate their homes; to the brave firefighters and first responders risking their lives to protect their neighbors — please know that we stand with you now.”
Mr Trump has long clashed with California.
The state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, has filed multiple lawsuits against the Trump administration on issues like immigration, health care and environment policy.
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