Californians have a problem: The government of California. Not Governor Newsom, not any particular legislators, but the state government itself.
The problem is that–high-school civics lessons notwithstanding–we really do not have effective ways of restraining the state, regardless of who sits at its helm. Many have pointed out that the lockdowns here are in violation of the US Constitution, and that the Constitution does not come with an exception for "emergencies" or pandemics. But none of that matters. Because the reality is that there is no good enforcement mechanism for Constitutional provisions, or indeed, for our fundamental rights regardless of what the Constitution has to say about them.
The problem we are faced with is not that we happen to be ruled by a dictatorial madman hell-bent on crushing the economy and our livelihoods even after any pretense of a rationale for doing so has disappeared into thin air. The problem is that we live under an institution that provides no meaningful protection against this happening.
Here's my proposal. It is not perfect, and some will say it does not go far enough (and they will be right), but it makes use of tools that we already have at our disposal, and is something that can be implemented immediately and–most importantly–peacefully.
My solution? Nullify the California state government and do not replace it. Allow the county governments that are already in place to continue operating, and to take over any legitimate functions currently handled by the state government.
My proposal would start with individual counties and cities refusing to enforce state laws, declaring themselves to be independent jurisdictions, and declaring the California State government to be null and void. We have already seen some California counties and other local authorities do the first part of this, with several across the state refusing to enforce the governor’s lockdown and mask orders.
Some will argue that I have not thought through all of the possible implications of making such a drastic change. They're right, I haven't. But neither did Governor Newsom think through the implications of shutting down the bulk of the state's economy for an indefinite period of time. Of course he didn't. He didn't have to, as he personally will bear none of the costs of his actions.
Should we think this through a little more, discuss the implications, consider different ways to accomplish the goal? Of course. But we should do so urgently, as each day brings more small businesses closer to ruin and more individuals closer to bankruptcy and psychological and emotional collapse.
The state government's response to a virus has laid bare the dangers of allowing one entity to have so much power over so many people. Radically changing how the state operates has become a necessity for the millions of people whose lives and livelihoods are being held hostage, not by one particular dictatorial governor, but by what has become an all-powerful and menacing institution. We need a solution to this problem now.