Low Concept

The Conservative’s Canada

Where can Republicans threaten to move if Obama wins?

Conservatives have no Canada. Which is to say, they have no mythical land of ideological soul mates to which they can flee to nurse their wounds and commiserate over lost elections and flunked initiatives. Part of the reason for this may be temperamental: Even staring into the maw of an Obama-friendly electoral map, Republicans’ first instinct is not to threaten expatriation. (The McCain-Palin slogan, after all, is “country first.”) They have no backup plan for when the country they live in becomes politically unrecognizable.

Maybe they need one.

They needn’t bother too much with the details—not even Canada is the paradise liberals imagine, and the logistics of moving there are not so simple. And abandoning America might be anathema to any red-blooded Republican. But everyone needs a Plan B, even if they have no intention of carrying it out—just in case, say, Barack Obama appoints Michael Moore to the Supreme Court (the way President Gore did). With that in mind, let’s consider a few candidates for the conservative’s Canada.

Like Canada, Israel won’t feel too foreign to homesick Americans; they’ll have plenty of countrymen nearby. The close American ally is the fifth-most-popular home base for American expats in the world, according to slightly dated State Department estimates. (The Census Bureau is bad at tallying Americans abroad, but Republicans Abroad estimates that there are now 250,000 U.S. citizens in Israel, about half of whom are eligible to vote.)

Kory Bardash, the chairman of Republicans Abroad in Israel, argues that Americans in Israel, who are largely Jewish, are not nearly as stridently supportive of Obama as their domestic counterparts. Bardash describes American voters in Israel as “Joe Lieberman Democrats” who might have backed Bill Clinton but who don’t connect with Obama’s domestic message and are more persuaded by charges that he lacks experience in foreign affairs. (Hillary Clinton won a majority of the Israel vote in the Democrats Abroad primary.) Israel’s political leanings are difficult to fact-check, but it’s safe to say that U.S. Republicans seeking refuge in Israel won’t have too much difficulty finding kindred spirits.

Overall, Israelis are described as ambivalent to George W. Bush, which feels welcoming compared with the global dislike of the president. A 2007 Pew Research Center poll found that Israel has one of the highest favorability ratings for the United States. And it has something for the many varieties of conservative species: a capitalist economy, strong aversion to Islamofacism, unbeatable biblical history, and a strong defense.

Poland was a stalwart member of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq for five and a half years, bringing its operations in the country to a close just last week only to increase its presence in Afghanistan. Like Israel, the country’s citizens have a favorable opinion of the United States. The United States recently struck a deal with Poland to place anti-missile interceptors there. The country is highly literate and has an influential pro-business faction in its parliament.

If Israel is the destination for conservatives primarily concerned with the threat of Islamic terrorism, Poland is the logical choice for the anti-Communists chiefly concerned with new Cold War tremors. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Poland has been a poster child for a rebuilt democracy. Its GDP grew 6.5 percent in 2007, though the annual inflation rate was more than 4 percent. It’s a religiously devout (and overwhelmingly Catholic) country, a NATO ally, and a likely strategic partner for years to come.

The Cayman Islands
Fleeing for the Cayman Islands is a bit of a retreat to the womb for despondent Americans; the three tiny Caribbean islands are a British territory still highly dependent on the crown. This is the destination for wealthy, free-market conservatives looking to wait out Democratic reign in Washington. Because there is no direct taxation, the islands are a hub for offshore banking and other financial services.

A few more Americans on the island wouldn’t feel conspicuous: The permanent population is naturally diverse, including a 20 percent expatriate population. Rich Republicans who can afford the move won’t feel far from home while waiting out the Obama administration.

My former colleague Michael Barone points out that for those who prioritize gun ownership rights, Switzerland is the place to be, while Singapore and Hong Kong have very market-friendly economies. (Like everyone I talked to, Barone emphasized that he didn’t think conservatives would ever seriously consider leaving the United States.) Others suggested that Germany, under the leadership of Angela Merkel, might start looking more attractive to conservatives if the United States continues its leftward trend. And, of course, the one place conservatives could feel comfortable over the next four years is Alaska, home to their favorite governor. Unfortunately, it happens to be part of the United States.

There’s an easy way to test these options in the field. Look in the mirror and repeat the following phrase: “Screw this! I’m moving to [insert country here].” If you like the sound of it, you just may like the reality of it. Or maybe just saying it will be enough.

Have your own suggestion of where to move? Send it here.

Update, Oct. 13, 2008: Readers have proposed a variety of alternate locations where errant conservatives can find refuge. Here’s a few of their top recommendations.

Several readers make a case for Ireland. Abortion is mostly illegal in the country. The political parties are center-right, and the country’s corporate tax of 12.5 percent is extremely friendly to industry, including Microsoft and Intel. Native Irishman Marc Bruton says: “As an Irishman living in the U.S. for 12 years (who is currently horrified by McCain/Palin), I have to say there is nowhere more America-like than the country of my birth. They’d love it. … And it has some great golf courses!” The country is largely religious, and English is the second of two official languages. And they have a history of welcoming Republicans. “You can’t get too hung up on the JFK connection,” advises Paul Sheridan. “Reagan got as big a welcome when he visited in the ‘80s.”

Australia’s devotion to laissez-faire economics makes it an attractive target for free-market conservatives, and the fact that they speak English will be attractive to anyone who finds Polish too difficult to pick up. (Several Polish readers wrote in to point out that this will be a major hurdle for Americans.) The conservative Heritage Foundation ranks Australia at No. 4 on its economic freedom index, following Hong Kong, Singapore, and Ireland. (The United States is No. 5.) The open spaces will attract conservatives sick of claustrophobic urban politics. “It has a Wild West mythos analogous to that of the U.S., but unlike our own West, where states like Colorado are becoming increasingly urban and Democratic, the Outback remains sparsely settled and free of large cities,” writes Philip, who wanted only his first named printed. “Australia is also the native land of Rupert Murdoch and Mel Gibson.” Several others, including newly uncloseted Obama supporter Christopher Buckley, suggested New Zealand as well. (“Fun fact,” writes Rob Killion. “New Zealand is probably Australia’s Canada.”)

From the mailbag: In mavericklike defiance of the fact that Alaska is, as noted, still part of the United States, many readers suggested that disaffected conservatives retreat with Sarah and Todd Palin back to their home state. Estonia won a few nods for its anti-Communist bona fides. Nigeria garnered a surprising number of votes as well from readers who thought libertarian-minded Republicans would benefit from the African nation’s lawlessness and penchant for piracy. One suspects these readers were not overly concerned with the welfare of said conservatives.

Slate V: What if Obama loses? Canada beckons.