Opinion: Is 2024 the year you’ll become an American expat?


In 2000, Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam’s baritone and outspoken defender of abortion rightsthreatened to move to “a different country” if George W. Bush were elected president.

“With three vacant Supreme Court seats in the next administration, it scares me to think of a Republican in office,” he said.

The same year, Alec Baldwin reportedly said he would leave if Bush won. So did the late director Robert Altman.

Bush won. Vedder stayed. Baldwin stayed. Altman stayed. Thus was born the right-wing joke about celebrities’ angry posturing.

In fact, the threat to leave the United States if X or Y (or B or T) is elected is often both grandiose and empty. The general opinion is that it is better not to threaten at all. It’s like a divorce. You’re not supposed to mention it unless you’re ready to follow through.

But with Pollsters tell us that “dread” exceeds the list of Americans’ feelings about the 2024 election, and with Donald Trump expecting a Explicitly dictatorial return to the White House, the prospect of emigrating to more democratic shores has a new appeal. Hollow threats are foolish. But it is worth remembering a fundamental freedom: that of moving.

I have almost never thought about leaving the United States as a political protest. Even after the elections of Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush, whose policies diverged sharply from mine, expatriating did not cross my mind. Those two were democratically elected by an American majority.

Yes, being forced to accept presidents whom the majority of the American electorate opposed (George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016) was demoralizing. Presidents who reach the Oval Office thanks to manipulation and an increasingly unbalanced electoral college, with blatant help from the Supreme Court (Bush) or the Kremlin (Trump) are terrible for morale in a democracy.

Still, I haven’t activated listings for rentals in Auckland, New Zealand or Vancouver yet.

But accept a leader who installs himself in the White House with a violent insurrection, as Trump tried to do just three years ago? That’s where the expatriation fantasy comes into play.

In last year’s sweeping history of human civilization, “The Dawn of Everything,” authors David Graeber and David Wengrow propose that human society requires three invaluable freedoms: the freedom to disobey, the freedom to reimagine society, and the freedom to move away.

Remembering that we can escape this country if the American experiment is hijacked is to send a signal to the nervous system that we are still free, in all three senses. Until all borders, ports and roads are closed, until all planes are grounded and martial law is instituted, we will not be stuck here.

It is a deeply valuable civic practice to address the question of whether America has ultimately failed. After all, the origin story of many American families is elopement. Consider it a thought experiment: what would it take for you to leave?

TOAccording to Gallup, a record number of Americans seriously considered leaving the United States during Trump’s term. Sixteen percent said they wanted to separate forever. This figure was considerably higher than during the administrations of George W. Bush (11%) and Barack Obama (10%). Notably, 40% of women under 30 told Gallup in 2019 that they would like to leave. According to data collected last year by the Washington Post, the desire to leave spiked again after Roe v. Wade out in June 2022.

When I asked ChatGPT about immigrating to Canada, I didn’t exactly get the kind “Go ahead!” message I was waiting for. Instead, he told me to try my luck with Canadian bureaucracy: visas and family sponsorship, Express Entry and the Provincial Nominee Program.

At the same time, if you can find a foothold abroad, it will be easier than ever to sustain yourself in foreign lands. Pandemic-era workforces remain dispersed. Last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that about 28% of private sector establishments had employees teleworking part or all of the time, and other research indicates that this percentage may be too low. You may be able to leave the US and take your work with you.

and a lot of people do leave. In 2020, a prominent American legal journalist took her family to Canada, where she grew up. She is glad to no longer live in the long shadow of our exhausted far-right Supreme Court. A 26-year-old gay American, who prophetically fled political unrest in the United States for Norway in 2019, convened a Reddit group called r/AmerExit to help others who were considering moving. One member, Richard Altfeld, headed to the Netherlands with his wife, Tiana Esperanza. Altfeld and Esperanza, a biracial couple, were, among other things, fed up with American racism.

The need to escape, of course, is not only felt by liberals. Another Gallup poll reveals that pride in being an American is near all-time lows for Republicans.

If they are looking for new homelands, Republicans could look to Trump for inspiration. On the stump he has been praising the dictatorships of Hungary, China, Russia and North Korea. His supporters have at least four solid expatriation options if President Biden wins re-election.

But of course leaving is not easy. The problem with moving to Canada can be bureaucracy. But the problem with moving to autocracies richer in Trumpian values ​​is that they also tend to be hostile toward immigrants.

Virginia Heffernan is a regular contributor to Wired and writes a newsletter, Magic and Loss, on virginiaheffernan.substack.com.

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