As Donald Trump racks up more and more delegates toward the Republican Presidential nomination, Google is reporting a huge increase in the search term “move to Canada.” Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia is encouraging people fleeing Trump to visit their island. And my Facebook feed has regular entries from friends talking about moving to Canada, or Ireland, or somewhere in Scandinavia.
I’ve been here before. In 2004 I gave some thought to moving to Canada after George W. Bush was re-elected. The more I investigated, though, the more I decided that daydreaming about it wasn’t a good thing. Here’s an excerpt from my private journal from December 2004:
Quit putting energy into moving to Canada or you’ll find yourself there sooner than you want to be. If you start mentally building a house in Canada, you’ll end up in Canada.
Texas hasn’t started burning witches, and they aren’t likely to, no matter how bad things get. If at some point it becomes dangerous to remain here, then you’ll have to move. But that day isn’t today.
I think we’re in the same place twelve years later. Here are nine reasons why I’m not moving to Canada even if Trump wins.
1. Trump’s not going to win. I admit he’s hung around longer than I thought he would – I wasn’t counting on the #2 Republican being Ted Cruz. The Republican establishment hates Cruz as much as it hates Trump (and to be honest, I’m more afraid of Cruz) but they can’t get the voters behind Marco Rubio. We may be headed for a brokered convention, and there’s always the possibility of Mitt Romney being drafted as a compromise candidate.
If Trump gets the nomination, I expect Hillary or Bernie will walk over him. Most of the constituency that voted for Barack Obama will support the Democratic nominee, and the Republican establishment will (quietly) back Hillary over either Trump or Cruz. A Sanders – Trump race could see Michael Bloomberg reverse his decision and run as an independent. I’ve already seen some Republicans supporting Libertarian Gary Johnson. A third-party candidate has the chance to send the election to the House of Representatives where Trump is hated and will not win.
2. Presidential power is limited. Even if Trump wins, there are limits on what he can do. His bullying style of “leadership” isn’t likely to win him any friends or allies in Congress. Other than perhaps on immigration, I don’t see him getting any significant bills passed. As we have seen with President Obama, there is only so much that can be done through executive orders. This is still a nation of laws, and our courts are largely immune to Presidential bullying.
We’ve already seen senior advisors state that the military would refuse to obey illegal orders – I think that’s likely. I’m far less worried about a President Trump doing something crazy than I am with a President Cruz giving Israel a blank check and escalating a war in the Middle East.
3. I’m not in much danger. I’m not an immigrant or a Muslim. I’m a straight, white, middle class man. The only way I’m likely to run afoul of the Trump Brownshirts (other than writing posts like this, which I absolutely plan to continue) is my religion, and that can be camouflaged if it’s necessary to protect my life and property.
Is that privilege? You better believe it is. And with privilege comes the responsibility to use it to make the world a better place. That means that if I’m wrong and the country really does go to hell, I need to be one of the last ones out, not one of the first.
4. Immigration isn’t that easy. It’s really easy for Americans to visit pretty much any place we’d like to move to. Just buy an airplane ticket, fill out an arrivals card, and show your passport when you arrive. Other countries are happy to have us visit, see their sights, and spend our money with them.
But pull up to the border with a moving van, or even at the airport without a return ticket, and you’re likely to be turned away. Every country has their own rules for who can immigrate, and while some take refugees, an American running from an unpopular President isn’t going to be considered a refugee.
If you have family in Canada, your odds of getting in are pretty good. If you have a job offer waiting on you, your odds are pretty good. If you want to study and not work, and have the resources to do so, your odds are good. If you’re independently wealthy, your odds are really good. Other than that, though, things get complicated.
I have American friends living in numerous countries around the world. It can be done. But it takes months if not years to plan, and many more years before you can get permanent residency or citizenship.
5. Moving is expensive. Moving across the border is even more expensive. And the more stuff you have, the more expensive it is to move. I shudder to think what it’s going to cost to move 30 miles to Denton when my commuting situation is close to changing (i.e. – when I get within a couple years of retirement), much less what it would cost to move 2500 miles to Cape Breton Island.6. Canada looks pretty good – for now. For someone with liberal political views, Canada looks pretty good right now. Universal health care, marriage equality firmly established, mostly minds their own business in international affairs. And new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leads a Liberal Party that just took power after almost ten years of Conservative rule.
But let’s not forget that for that almost ten years, Canada was led by Stephen Harper, sometimes called “Bush Lite.” Let’s not forget that the Keystone XL Pipeline project (which has been vetoed by President Obama but could be revived by a Republican President) is designed to transport tar sands oil from Alberta, the home of some of the worst environmental desecration on the planet.
There are no perfect countries: not Canada, not Ireland, not Sweden. All have their good points and bad points, and all are in a constant state of flux. Canada’s economy is slow right now, largely due to the drop in prices for oil and other natural resources. While that’s not Harper’s fault, Trudeau won’t be able to do much about it, and there’s no guarantee Canadians (who aren’t universally liberal, particularly in the West) won’t blame him for it and bring the Conservatives back into power next election.
7. Canada is cold. And the one place in Canada with moderate weather (Vancouver) is horribly expensive.
I grew up in Tennessee. We have winter, but it’s fairly mild and fairly short. Texas is even warmer. We occasionally make the national news because of our inability to deal with an ice storm (like the 2011 Super Bowl), but for the most part, winter means a few weeks of wearing a jacket. Yes, the summers are brutal, but that’s why we have air conditioning… and you don’t have to shovel heat.
I spent three winters in South Bend, Indiana. My house was 25 miles from Lake Michigan – we got lake effect snows. I once shoveled my driveway six times in 24 hours just to be able to get one car out. I once wore a hooded sweatshirt on the Fourth of July. I can deal with the cold and snow, but the older I get the less I want to.
8. I trust my ability to read the political thermometer. An old proverb says that if you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water he’ll jump out, but if you put him in a pan of room temperature water he’ll never notice it getting hotter until he boils to death. I’ve never tried that experiment – I have a bit of compassion even for amphibians – but it makes a valid point. I’m sure millions of Jews in 1930s Germany thought they had plenty of time to leave, until they didn’t.
The fact is that we are in the beginnings of the Long Descent. A Donald Trump presidency would floor the accelerator on our descent, but even a Bernie Sanders presidency would only tap the brakes a bit. As the American empire crumbles, things will get nastier. It behooves all of us to pay attention, even if we hate politics.
But we aren’t there yet, and I don’t think even four years of Trump will get us there.
9. I’m not surrendering to fascists and theocrats. Call me naïve. Call me stubborn. You can even call me patriotic. But I still believe in the idea of America.
I still believe all people are created equal, even if we’ve yet to fully realize that ideal. I still believe in freedom of religion, including for Muslims and Pagans (and atheists and even fundamentalist Christians). I believe the Land of Opportunity works best when it’s open to everyone willing to sign on to the idea that we judge people by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin, or which Gods they do or don’t pray to, or how much money they have. I believe that promoting the general Welfare is a necessary and proper use of our common wealth.
I may not have a 3000 year family relationship with the land like some of my European friends, but my ancestors have been here for 200 years, and that’s something. This is where I was born. This is where I grew up. This is where I’ve built a nice life. This is my home, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to hand it over to Donald Trump or Ted Cruz without a fight.
You may be at greater risk than I am. You may have fewer ties to this country. You may have an easier time moving. You have to do what’s best for you, and if that includes moving to Canada, I wish you well.
But I’m not leaving, not even if Donald Trump becomes President.