‘Moving to Canada’ sentiment shows how privileged Americans are

When Donald Trump was threatening to win the Republican nomination for president, it spawned the response of some people saying that if he won, they would leave America, and the usual destination mentioned is Canada. Now that he has won the nomination, the threats to leave if he wins the presidency can be expected to increase.

Such threats are not new. I have lived long enough in the US to remember similar threats to leave if other candidates won, such as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. These threats tend to mostly come from fearful liberals about the prospect of Republicans winning and not the other way around, maybe because conservatives tend to see the rest of the world as hideous and dangerous dumps full of anti-American sentiment and that they are always better off here.

But the very fact that Americans feel that they have the freedom to go to another country merely if they choose to do so highlights how privileged they are. As we see with the refugee crisis, for most people leaving one’s own country and being accepted, let alone welcomed, by another is a real luxury and often requires making a strong case.


  1. says

    Nationalism is a crime.

    The whole idea that there are these arbitrary lines on the map, and being born within a set of those lines gives the controlling political entity any say in what happens to people -- it’s ridiculous. “Consent of the governed” assumed at birth, forsooth!

  2. Jake Harban says

    I received US citizenship when I was born. Since being born was literally the only action I had taken at that point, I must have earned my US citizenship through that action. Therefore, US citizenship is earned by being born. Therefore, anyone who has been born is entitled to US citizenship.

    The same applies to any country that anyone has been born a citizen of.

  3. doublereed says

    To be fair, with Trump they might be acting in genuine fear of being marginalized, attacked, and deported. Trump has been running a campaign of violence and bigotry, and he’s already had a huge effect on hate crimes and empowering hate groups.

  4. i swear I'm not an imposter says

    I think white americans underestimate the difficulty of relocating to another country for a permanent or unbounded time frame. If you have money, sure, you can visit pretty much anywhere for a few weeks or months, but “elective” permanent residence requires marriage, employment, or draft dodging (so, currently not an option) for typical income levels.

    We’ve lived in Japan for the last 2.5 years and the prospect of the first oompa loompa president is certainly something we’re taking into consideration, so the threat isn’t always empty but Trump wasn’t on anyone’s radar three years ago, so it’s not like moving here was a strategic decision. A fortunate accident giving us a leg up on getting the fuck out if the idiot vote carrys the day. I’d be surprised if there were actually meaningful spikes of US citizen exodus since the 70s, but I’d be less surprised if people actually try to leave this time.

  5. Jim B says

    Conservatives do it too. Bill O’Reilly said he’d move to Ireland if Sanders was elected. Here is an Irishman pointing out how all the things O’Reilly rails against in the US has it twice as bad (from O’Reilly’s perspective) in Ireland:


    From the perspective of its Western European neighbors, Ireland is a small, market-friendly, right-of-center country. But from the perspective of American conservatism, Ireland looks like a hellhole of socialism.

  6. sonofrojblake says

    In the UK it’s the other way round: the threats to leave the country generally come from the right-wing rich and famous when it looks like there’s a possibility of a Labour (i.e. left-ish) government. I always assumed it was this way round for the simple and obvious reason that it’s only the rich who have the option/privilege, and that it’s typically the selfish right who, if everything is not going exactly as they like it, simply cut and run to somewhere more comfortable.

    Also that leftist rich people in the UK (we do have them) tend to have the kind of good taste and integrity that would see running out on their country when things get tough as a Bad Thing.

    Obviously the left in the USA think differently.

  7. MadHatter says

    I think it has more to do with Americans having no idea what it takes to actually emigrate. Having recently done so myself, I would note that doing so legally to a nice country like Canada or anywhere in Europe is nearly impossible without a job or money to prove you can in fact go back to the USA when said country has decided it’s time for you to go.

    My ex seemed to think he could easily head to Mexico (something to do with hating Obama-care). I imagine he was pretty surprised that he couldn’t stay there without a proper visa or money either.

  8. Mano Singham says


    Interestingly, I know of Americans who moved to Mexico on retiring because of the universal health care services provided by the government.

  9. dianne says

    Personally, if Trump gets elected, I will not, on 9 November, grab the kid and the dogs and hop on the first train to Ontario.

    I will, however, do the following:
    Apply for jobs in Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and New Zealand. Those are the initial countries, for various personal reasons. Others will follow, if necessary. It’s much easier to immigrate with a job than without one and I have skills and training that are needed in most parts of the world so getting a job outside the US is not a complete fantasy--in fact, I have one now, if a time limited one.
    Make sure that I have money stored in banks outside the US. Not all in one place, because I don’t exactly trust other countries not to lose it either, but spreading the risk seems prudent.
    Never, under any circumstances, let my passport lapse.
    Listen to the gossip. I’m probably not the first person who would be in trouble in a Trump presidency, but there are various “problems” with me and my family that make it likely that we’d be in the second round of scapegoats, so I want to be out of there before visibly Islamic people start disappearing and the cost of the wall suddenly plummets because the workers are no longer being paid.

    So, sorry, US, I’m not actually going to stay and fight. I’m going. Yes, it’s privilege. But I can and I’m not going to sacrifice myself for solidarity. And I mean to do it before so many USians have to leave or die that people from the US are thought of as those refugees that everyone has to take out of charity.

    Here’s the thing though: It won’t work. Either Trump will follow the rules, in which case it’ll be unnecessary* or he’ll break them, in which case it’ll be inadequate because he’ll just overrun the world. So I’m going to try my best to avoid that situation in any way I can. I don’t, at this point, care if it’s Sanders or Clinton. I want the D to win and win big with serious senate and house coattails.

    *Though a Trump presidency would be a disaster for the US economy. Meaning that the social situation will only worsen and the next election might have Clive Bundy or David Duke as the R. The best one can hope for out of a Trump presidency is that he leaves at the end of his term. I think it…likely…that he would, but only “likely” as in “greater than 50% probability” not as in “p<0.00001".

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