I had the opportunity to conduct a very pleasant and informative interview with Theo Slater, the co-founder of the California National Party. They are an independence party based in the American state of California. Currently, they have their eyes set on becoming officially recognized as a Californian political party so they can officially run candidates under their party. In our continuing effort to build our community with other movements aimed at independence, secession, or local governmental reform, I sat down with Theo to discuss some of the CNP stances and goals as well as how our movements can help one another. These statements have been minorly revised for clarity and flow with the approval of Slater.
—So, I’m with the Cascadia Underground and, to kick things off, I wanted to get some background on you and your organization. So, to my knowledge, you are the founder of the CNP, Correct?
Theo: Yes, I am one of them.
—Fantastic! So, what inspired you to form the California National Party?
TS: So it was like 2014 and Obama had started various wars to destroy various nations, he had deported a record number of people, and what that really did for me was it showed me how peaceful and compassionate the US empire could possibly be. I think it’s likely that Obama will be “the best president in my life time” with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter since I was born in 1979, *he gave a light chuckle*, but he’s still launching all these wars and deporting more people than had ever been deported and it shows you, it shows me, that the Democratic Party isn’t a force of liberation, it’s the smiling face of tyranny. So, the Republican Party shows what it is on its face and, I mean I do believe that the Republican Party is substantially worse than the Democratic Party, but the reason I started the California National Party is because not even the Democratic Party is good. I’m sick of my money going to fund endless wars, I’m sick of either voting for a loser or a monster when I vote for presidents because those are your options, do you either want the loser or the soon-to-be war criminal. So I was thinking to myself. “What is the most I could possibly do to do away with this war machine? What is the most I could possibly do to, in terms of like, try to live in a free society?” And my conclusion was if I pulled California away from this American empire, that would cut several trillion dollars from its economy and several hundreds of billions of dollars from its war budget, and that would be the most that I could do. So I reached out to some likeminded people and we started working together on an organization called Sovereign California, which had somewhat less ambitious goals, and then the Scottish Independence Movement had a referendum in, I believe, 2014 or maybe 2015. So essentially they got about 45% of the vote, though I think the English probably stole it from them in a few different ways, but that was really inspiring to me and some of the people I was working with so we created the California National Party modeled on the Scottish National Party. I, personally, believe that that model is a good model because it is a civic-national party, centered around the idea that everyone living within the territorial boundaries of Scotland to be Scottish, not to be confused with an ethnic-national party, and similarly we consider everyone living in California to be Californian; it’s not a divisive kind of nationalism where we say some Californians are Californians and some aren’t, which is contrary to how it seems some of the GOP thinks some Americans are Americans and some aren’t. We consider everyone in California to be Californian.
—Interesting. Well, I guess you started into my next question, but what is some history about your party and more broadly your movement as a whole, like the concept of California secession or nationalism.
TS: I consider us to be the California independence movement because our goal is bringing about an independent California, how that impacts other entities is important but it’s not our focus. So looking at us as a secessionist movement is setting us up to say that we exist in relation to some other entity, but that’s not how we see ourselves. So the California Independence movement, we got started around 2015 for real because before that we were just seeking autonomy and it’s since blossomed into a bunch of other organizations seeking independence in a whole bunch of different ways, and I think that’s great, so that’s how I see our history.
—Cool, so do you happen to know any history about California independence movements from the past?
TS: Well, sure, I think the most successful California independence movement of all time happened in 1836 when California declared its independence from Mexico and was independent for several months. I think that was the most success California’s had in being independent for a substantial amount of time. There was also some success in 1846 when California was independent for about a month but that was also kind of a trojan horse, of sorts, for the Americans so I prefer the independence tradition of 1836. I also think that California independence also relates well to the American independence tradition of 1776 in the sense that, similarly, we have an out of touch would-be dictator who doesn’t share our values and is taxing us as much as he possibly can to specifically target Californians so they can steal even more of our money and we are systemically underrepresented. About 48 senators represent states that combine to form the population of California; while we’re less underrepresented in the House of Representatives, the congressperson from Wyoming still represents far fewer people than our congresspeople do. So we are cheated in congress as well and California hasn’t affected and presidential elections in decades. We are essentially a piggy bank for the Americans to use whenever they need. On top of that, the judicial system is approved by the Senate and that is where we are obviously the most cheated given that we have 40 million people, and Wyoming has less than a million but the same number of senators that we do. It’s no surprise that the American judicial system is so far to the right and so at odds with California’s open and inclusive values.
—That makes sense. On the topic of values, in relation to the CNP, what are some of your firm party stances? What does this party represent, politically?
TS: Sure, so obviously we support independence for California, but that is going to take some time because we are committed to peaceful and democratic means of gaining independence. So, in the meantime, we want to create a system where we can allow California residents to live and work freely in the state of California, regardless of their immigration status, especially given that Trump’s Gestapo thugs are invading our communities and putting people, including children, in cages; because of this, we want to, at least, have a state government that is committed to the rights of all California residents because they are members of our community and they deserve to live safely and peacefully and freely. They contribute so much to who we are. So that’s one of our goals. We also want to take much more rapid action in terms of protecting the environment, mitigating climate change, and really shifting to a post-carbon economy so that our children can live somewhere that isn’t a sunblasted wasteland, which is the ecological cliff we are all rapidly approaching. Some people consider the CNP to be radical but, honestly, I think that seeking to create a sustainable world is the least radical thing you can do, we want to have a habitable world for our children and in America’s insane, neoliberal dystopia, that is a radical decision which is incredible! I mean, I think what’s most incredible about America’s ruling class is that they don’t even care about the wellbeing of their own children! Which is such a profound indictment! I think one of the more challenging things for people wanting to create a better world is that even once we wrestle control from the neoliberals, who apparently are nihilists who only care about their own power, is that we have to reverse course on this train hanging over a cliff and the people in charge seem dedicated to speeding up the process of environmental destruction. So we want to reverse that process of environmental destruction, we want to make California safe for all Californians, and resist the interference of the feds and the federal Gestapo who are hunting Californians as their job, we want to close all American concentration camps in California, which have basically become death camps due to COVID. The most amazing thing, I knew that Trump was gonna be a horrific monster but I didn’t anticipate there would be concentration camps for children. That really amazes even me. Like, I knew the Americans were capable of great depravity, as evidenced by their history where it is constant, but that level, that level, concentration camps for children is incredible.
TS: What I think is frightening and what Trump has found is how many Americans are in favor of that [in reference to concentration camps and other practices resemblant of Nazi Germany], how many Americans are in favor of it and think it’s a good thing, I think that is the most startling thing of all. I think that willful blindness is very American but Trump has really ripped off the poster of illusion that was hiding the worst depravity of this empire and almost 50% of Americans seemingly support it. I think that is the biggest surprise to liberals, is how many of these people actually want what Trump is doing.
—Very true. Shifting topics, I did some research into your website and I saw that one of your goals is party qualification. What does that mean for the CNP?
TS: Sure. So for partisan offices in California you have to be a qualified party in order for the party name to appear next to their name. Right now, if we were to run a candidate they are going to appear on the ballot as an independent candidate. If we get about 65,000 people, or so, to register their political affiliation with the California National Party, then CNP or California National Party would appear next to a candidate’s name when they run for office.
—That sounds like it would be beneficial to get your name out there. So, about yourself, what were you involved in prior to the CNP as a career?
TS: Before, and currently, I am an attorney. I run a small law firm and I practice most forms of law, most often I practice foreclosure defense. That’s where a bank tries to take someone’s home and I sue the bank to prevent them from doing so.
—Very noble. So, to my knowledge you live in Sacramento, have you always lived there?
TS: No, I was born in Seattle, and I’ve lived in a few different states. I went to Pomona college in California, which is on the edge of Los Angeles. Then I spent some time in North Carolina after that, then I moved back to California to go to law school and I have lived here ever since.
—Have you always wanted to work in law and activism?
TS: I started my participation in activism with the war in Afghanistan because I recognized it was just going to murder a whole bunch of poor people far away who really had nothing to do with anything. I think that if Bush had just sent in SEALs to surgically take out Bin Laden that would have been justifiable but invading a country, destroying it, occupying it for decades is all too “American”. So that’s when I started being an activist. I also protested against the Iraq war pretty extensively. What that experience taught me, the anti-war protests and especially the Iraq war, was that the anti-war movement that was so strong during the Vietnam war is now only a shadow of its former self. At this point, America’s temporary emperors can basically declare war on any country that is not white and do whatever they want. Even if millions of people protest, they’ll just be ignored.
—In the vein of protesting, what do you think is integral to running a movement, especially one like yours and ours?
TS: I’ve been really impressed by the cultural depth of the Cascadian Movement and it took me a while to get it, in terms of communicating with people in the Cascadian Movement because it’s so different from the California Independence Movement. And I have a lot of respect for that, and I think it is a really interesting angle, in terms of bioregionalism instead of a more nationalist angle. I think that, for California, civic nationalism makes a lot of sense, because of California’s long history. Especially how California predates the rule by Americans, how it was brought into the United States by invasion, I think that civic nationalism can make a lot of sense. The way that California has always been a collaboration between different communities for its entire modern history. Initially you have the First Nations Californians, and then the Spanish come in, and then its rule by Mexico, and THEN you have an influx of people from China and an influx of Americans, you can really see this community of communities which has since expanded to include large communities of people from all over the world. I think that is what makes California so unique and so amazing, is that it is a cultural conversation. It’s never been exclusively one dominant group in the same way that the rest of the United States has always been with only a few other exceptions. The rest of the United States has always been white political homogeneity, uncontested white political homogeneity. That meets resistance and uprisings from time to time but in California there has always been this kind of cultural conversation between a whole bunch of different groups and that is why I think we are such a dynamic economy and such a dynamic society. So I think that helping Californians understand that America is not like California, that it will never be like California, and it will never share our open and inclusive values is an early first step in the peaceful and democratic liberation of California.
—How do you go about spreading that sort of message?
TS: well, we have a podcast called Free The Bear Podcast, we have a YouTube channel, we have a few different Facebook pages, we have a website: CaliforniaNational.Party, we have a Twitter page, we have an Instagram, we’re expanding into a few different social medias, we used to do more in person events but that has obviously dialed that back due to COVID because we have to protect the wellbeing of our volunteers. We’re trying to- once there’s a vaccine and people can be in public safely we’re at farmer’s markets and other community forums trying to move our message forward, trying to help Californians see that the DC swamp just holds us back and takes our money to prop up the economies of failed red states and waging endless war.
—So, we just talked about both of our movements, so what can we as Cascadians do to help your movement?
TS: I think that there is a lot of synchronicity between our groups. We could be good neighbors and I think that the American empire is on the verge of collapse. A lot of people talk about “How can you break free?” I think a much more likely scenario is that California and Cascadia can rise like phoenixes from the ashes, out of the burning rubble, of America. Because America is ever more clearly not a nation, it is a collection of people who deeply hate each other, don’t share values, and have agreed to believe in this illusion. So, I would say that our task is to prepare for the collapse of America and help that collapse be as peaceful as possible. In the same way that the Czech Republic was able to do a velvet divorce, we have to help our American friends see that the best way forward is to leave as friends. The thing to do in a terrible marriage is not to fight an endless war at home, it’s just to get a divorce. That is the task of Cascadia and the California Independence Movement is to facilitate that divorce.
—Yes, I agree, but more specifically, how can we help each other achieve our goals or carry out this task?
TS: Well, one minor detail is that there is this one small sliver of California that is claimed by Cascadia, so obviously we need to resolve that minor issue *he chuckles lightly*. But past that is mutual recognition, and we already do that, ya know sharing each other’s things on social media, attending each other’s events where feasible. Brandon came down and gave a presentation at a unity conference I had a couple months ago before COVID shut everything down and I think that is very helpful. Mutual respect and mutual support and that is already happening to an extent. I think that that would be happening more if COVID weren’t happening. For right now, just online support is really helpful. I think that helps both of our supporters see that movement is bigger than any one of us and I think it helps people see that there are a lot of people that want rational goals in terms of how to break up the failing American empire in a way that is beneficial for all. By existing we each help each other.
—Alrighty, last thing is: do you have any questions for me?
TS: what is your role in Cascadia?
—Well, a lot of things: I am running an aid station program, I’m part of the constitutional drafters, I’m doing interviews and writing articles, I’m mostly just helping out where I am asked to help. I’m a little everywhere. Anything else?
TS: Yeah, we would love to have more communication and cultural exchanges with Cascadia, so any way that you can help that I would appreciate that. Official, unofficial, really anything. I think our communications have been fairly shallow and I would like them to be broader and deeper because I think our goals are really well aligned. The more we communicate, the better.
The CNP is a group dedicated to the betterment of the cultural and economic wellbeing of the Californian community as well as the eventual diplomatic divorce between the Californian Civic National Region and the United States of America so that the Californian people can better serve themselves. In this way our two movements are very similar and we hold a great number of similar values. To further progress our two sister movements we could increase the breadth and depth of our communications as well as better raise awareness of each other’s movements and goals. Our two movements are incredibly value in this modern time of civil unrest in the wake of a bungled pandemic response, the unfair hunting of immigrants, a climate crisis that has had very limited response, centuries of policing abuse, and a multitude of other issues that are endemic to the American state. The propagation of our voices and messages, that the way things are isn’t how things have to be, that a map isn’t drawn written immutably in stone and new lines do not erase standing history but can prevent further degradation, is possible.