Do you know someone who goes around claiming that, if Donald Trump is elected president, he’ll move to Canada in protest?
This will never happen—first, because Donald Trump will never be the president; and second, because even if Trump did win the general election, your friend wouldn’t actually follow through on his threat to leave the country. He’d feel pretty annoyed and disappointed for a while, but the prospect of quitting his job, finding another one in a different country, uprooting his family (if he has one), and moving to a place where he doesn’t know anyone, faced realistically, would begin to seem a lot scarier than it does now. Moreover, despite your friend’s conviction that a Trump presidency would have disastrous large-scale consequences, he probably wouldn’t see all that much immediate difference in his daily life, and ultimately it would just be too easy to go on as normal in the United States.
Still, right now, the idea of moving to Canada (or some similar place) in the event of a Trump presidency seems reasonable to this friend. Why?
This may be an obvious point, but moving to Canada would accomplish literally nothing from a political standpoint; whether one stayed to see it or not, Trump’s conservative policies would run their course, their natural victims mostly being people who can’t afford to relocate to Montreal every time things don’t go their way politically. Logically, if all the liberals who hate Trump moved to Canada upon his improbable victory, that would only ensure a second term for Trump—and a Trump-like successor in the White House after him, as well as triumphs for small-time Trumps in local elections.
For white, well-to-do liberals to jump ship at the start of this hypothetical 2017 would signal an utter lack of concern for the safety of those people whom liberalism seeks to protect. So why is this notion—that moving to Canada would be the rational thing to do (not just for the persecuted but for the simply annoyed, too) if things got too bad in U.S.—not only countenanced but enthusiastically endorsed by most liberals, as if the harmful ideology of the Republican Party would vanish if we personally weren’t around to witness it?
Again, this may be an obvious point, but this election is not about you or me individually: there are, after all, 320 million lives within the borders of this nation. If you think our president is harming these people, don’t move to some place where such harm doesn’t occur—stay here and do more next time to fight for a better candidate.
The only explanation I can come up with for the hypothetical moving-to-Canada phenomenon is that, for certain liberals, what is at stake in this election is not the lives of poor people or minorities but the pleasurable culture of liberalism with which they associate themselves. For them, Trump’s America is like a city where all the hip coffee shops, local boutiques, and indie bookstores have been replaced by Wal-Mart and Hobby Lobby—it’s just not the type of place they’d want to live in. The ethical concerns relating to Trump’s platform matter to these Americans only insofar as the victory of such a platform in the United States would, by association, taint their superficially virtuous personal brands. The only solution, then, is to become Canadian and thus remain virtuous—except that they won’t actually do it. They’ll just stay and complain.
Of course, if Trump (or any of the other Republican candidates) gets elected, I’ll do plenty of complaining, too. But I already know I’ll be staying right here.