Years ago I dated a gal whose very liberal family was openly discussing the possibility of leaving the country in the wake of George W. Bush’s 2004 electoral victory. Being young and stupid, I was very upset at the possibility of losing my girlfriend to emigration (when you’re in high school, your entire world generally hinges on whether or not you have someone to hang out with on Friday nights). At the time it seemed like a distinct and frightening possibility. At fourteen years old, a lot of preposterous things seem distinct and frightening.
I know more now than I did back then, and one thing I know is this: every time an election doesn’t go their way, a critical mass of liberals vows to flee the United States for more enlightened lands—the Nordic countries, say, or the ghettos of East London, or the Benxi Water Caves. It’s just part and parcel of the American progressive enterprise: if a president you don’t like wins enough electoral votes to head the executive branch for four years, then you have to threaten to uproot your entire life and go live somewhere far, far away. And you’ll probably be unsurprised to know that, nearly a decade-and-a-half after my girlfriend’s family was swearing up and down to board the next cargo plane to Dingle Bay, the tradition continues on apace:
The first sign of what Rob Calabrese would come to think of as America’s unmooring began last year, just after Donald Trump won his first presidential primary and Calabrese published a $28 website that he’d designed in 30 minutes. “Hi Americans!” it began, and what followed was a sales pitch for an island where Muslims could “roam freely,” and where the only walls were those “holding up the roofs” of “extremely affordable houses.”
It was meant as a joke — but seven hours after Calabrese linked the site to the Facebook page of the pop radio station where he works as a DJ, in came an email from America. “Not sure if this is real but I’ll bite.” And then another: “It pains me to think of leaving, but this country is beyond repair.”
And then more. Within 24 hours, there were 80 messages. Within a week, there were 2,000, and many used the same words: “nervous” and “terrified” and “help…”
“I desperately want to move my daughters to the safety and sanity of Canada,” email No. 3,248 read. “It doesn’t even really matter if Donald Trump wins. He has exposed the awful attitude that plagues the US.”
“This is no longer the America I have loved for all my life,” email No. 3,310 read. “I am a hardworking man and could contribute much to any country that gives me a chance.”
It was somewhere around email 4,230 that Trump was elected president of the United States, and just before his inauguration came email No. 4,635.
“Looking to immigrate to Cape Breton area from Colorado,” it began. “I am a skilled paralegal and my wife is an attorney.”
Calabrese read it, wondered briefly about the people who sent it, and waited for the next one to come in.
“What do people see on the horizon to be this afraid?” he said.
The short answer to that last question is: nothing. Indeed, any serious examination of the panic surrounding Donald Trump’s presidency would assuredly reveal very few, if any, valid reasons for wanting to leave the country. But the vanities of progressive hysteria aren’t generally predicated on notions of validity. The point here isn’t that Donald Trump poses some imminent threat to “the America I have loved all my life;” the point is that Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election, Donald Trump won it, and a lot of liberals are really angry and really embarrassed and want to express their anger and embarrassment in the most histrionic way possible.
That’s not to say progressives don’t believe themselves when they say things like, “I desperately want to move my daughters to [Canada].” My own personal witness to this nonsense showed me that, even if the intended follow-through is a fantasy, the declarations to leave the country are themselves delivered with complete sincerity. Liberals really do believe this stuff. And so it is worth asking why—why so many on the Left are so often determined to flee the United States when things briefly don’t go their way, and why conservatives are overwhelmingly unlikely to do the same.
Part of it may indeed be a simple addiction to theatrics: modern progressivism thrives on pretending that every political event is a life-or-death scenario in which one choice will lead to peace and prosperity forever and the other choice will lead to death and destruction and dead puppies and 1984 or whatever. Closely related is the tendency for liberals to treat politics like the religion that many liberals have left behind: when government is God and government officials are priests and government programs are sacraments, a loss at the federal level can feel more than a little bit like a Beeldenstorm. And maybe there’s just a natural short-sightedness at work here, something particularly endemic to liberalism. Maybe conservatives are just better at assessing the long game, they are better at hoping for better, they are capable of seeing not just one move ahead but two or three or five. We get upset when a Democrat wins the presidency, sure—but for the most part we don’t have the same response as a great many liberals, a frantic and madcap intention to leave everything we know and everyone we love behind and flee to Canada.
I have written that these histrionics are part of the American progressive ethos. But it’s not really limited to American liberalism; apparently it’s the same the world over:
Reminiscent of the runup to Trump’s election last year, many artists [in France] have said they would prefer exile to living under Le Pen. Like Americans virulently opposed to Trump, they say they are looking to Canada as a refuge.
“Just in case, I’m making plans to move to Quebec,” leftwing comedian Guy Bedos wrote in a book published in March. “I have an absolute aversion for the Le Pen family,” the 82-year-old told AFP…
Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, the French-Mauritian author who won the Nobel prize for literature in 2008, said as far back as 2015 that he would hand in his French passport if Le Pen becomes president.
I have to say, leaving France—a country with overrated food and subpar coffee and an unpleasant, nasal, grammatically unstressed mush of a language—is always a worthwhile thing to consider. Still, fleeing France to move 3,000 miles away to Canada feels like a bit of overkill, and even then it’s hardly a change of scenery; Canada is lousy with the French. If you’re coming all that way, why not just emigrate to America? If you settle in a liberal-enough state, you’ll barely even know Trump is president. The only indication will be all the empty houses for sale—the homes once inhabited by liberals who have since fled to Quebec.