Millions of Americans are in danger of being infected by a rampant contagion which is spreading rapidly throughout the country–polling fatigue. Almost every website includes a paid banner or pop-up asking your opinion about the presidential race, which issue is most important to you, would you take a COVID-19 vaccine, do you feel safe sending your children to school, etc. I have received three phone calls this month from survey research firms (or so they say) wanting my opinion on similar issues. A clearly biased group texted me on Monday asking if I approved of the violence in cities like Portland, Kenosha and Minneapolis to which I responded… (My wife would not have approved of my finishing the sentence.) The people conducting this last survey must also believe the “scientific method” is a form of birth control.
Yet, no one has asked me the two questions about which I am most curious.
- Have you and your family had a conversation about leaving the country if Donald Trump is elected to a second term in office ?
- Does it matter whether you believe his victory was legitimate or not?
The only statistically valid data related to these questions come from a January 2019 Gallup report which compared the propensity of Americans to permanently leave the U.S. under the last three presidents.
George W. Bush/11 percent
Barack Obama/10 percent
Donald Trump/16 percent
Among those potential emigrants, the largest demographic subset was women under the age of 30. And the number one desired destination was Canada. In the case of Donald Trump, the percentage jumps to 22 percent for those who disapprove of his performance in office.
My own research, admittedly anecdotal based on discussions with family and friends, suggests those who would answer yes to the first question is consistent with the Gallup findings, if not higher. And of course, there is a difference between those who would act on their preference and others who make idle threats. For example, Susan Sarandon infamously said she would emigrate if George W. Bush won re-election. Sadly, she did not.
When I receive a positive response, the obvious next question is, “Where would you go?” On this matter there is a wide range of opinion. Canada. The Cayman Islands. Costa Rica. Portugal. Israel. The reasons also vary. We already have friends or family there. Such and such website says it is one of the top choices for American ex-pats. The cost of living and amenities make it a great place for retirees.
However, we never get to the second question for which I take personal responsibility. Probably because I had not given it much thought until Trump’s recent comments and Barton Gellman’s article in The Atlantic, “The Election That Could Break America,” which documents the ways Trump and the GOP might claim victory despite a vote tally in which Joe Biden wins both the popular and electoral votes. These new data points make the nature of Trump’s continued occupancy of the Oval Office a legitimate criterion in the conversation about staying or leaving the country. And perhaps, the one deserving the most weight.
Why? Because a legitimate Trump victory is not an indictment of Trump who we know does not care about democracy or the Constitution. It would be the American people who are guilty of the crime of violating their oath of citizenship. Renunciation of their pledge of allegiance to the flag. If a majority of Americans either vote for Donald Trump or sit out the election enabling his re-election, those individuals are signaling, in the strongest of terms, they too do not care about democracy, the Constitution or the rule of law.
Like many, I fear if Trump circumvents the will of the people in November, there will be chaos, mass protests and the inevitable violence that accompanies societal unrest. If a meaningful majority of Americans feel the cause is just, I would be proud to stand with them. However, if Trump and Trumpism is the will of the people, one must seriously re-evaluate the options. The proposition becomes, “Do I want to live in a country where a majority of the citizenry no longer is willing to stand up for the ideals on which the union was founded?”
Sadly, that makes the choice unquestionably easier. It’s time to pack the belongings and start combing the MIS listings outside the U.S. I am optimistic the voters will not let us down. But we do not need 20/20 hindsight to know it is a possibility. We have 2020 experience.
For what it’s worth.