The Canadian immigration website crashed Tuesday night. Even if the vast majority of people who are looking into moving north won’t pack up their belongings, the surge in searches reflects the desperation many of us are feeling in the face of the impending Donald Trump presidency.
That desperation is understandable, maybe even more so than it was when George W. Bush got re-elected in 2004. It isn’t just that Trump’s views and policies are repugnant. It’s that it’s hard to feel at home in a country that would elect a leader of his ilk—a man who views women as sex toys, Mexican immigrants as rapists, and Muslims as enemies of the state.
Yet if the impulse to leave is forgivable, a mass exodus would be deeply misguided.
There are many explanations for Trump’s victory, but one that should not be ignored is simple electoral math. Trump will likely get fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. He’s likely to win because too many of the Americans who voted for Clinton live in California, New York, and other liberal havens.
There is one way to fix that, and moving to Canada isn’t it. Forget Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. Move to Milwaukee, Atlanta, or Raleigh.
It was 12 years ago that Bill Bishop coined the term the big sort to describe a long-term trend whereby Americans have segregated themselves along ideological lines. There is evidence that the sorting has continued since then. I’m part of it: Raised in Ohio, I moved to California for college and New York for work. That means I’m part of the problem.
There are a lot of good reasons why liberals might prefer to live in cosmopolitan, coastal urban areas. For gays, immigrants, and people of color in particular, moving to a less diverse, less tolerant locale likely feels terrifying right now. For that reason, I’m not suggesting that everyone do it; I’m not even sure if I’ll do it myself. Rather, I’m suggesting that it’s worth seriously considering, as my family and I are doing this morning.
The good news is, after decades of economic decline, many of America’s urban centers are rising again. Pittsburgh has emerged as a hub for self-driving cars and medical research; college towns such as Austin, Texas, and Madison, Wisconsin, are teeming with educated young people. Working remotely is more feasible than ever in many sectors, and the internet can connect us all instantly regardless of where we reside. If you’re coming from someplace like New York or California, you’ll find as a bonus that the cost of living in your new home is orders of magnitude cheaper.
I’m not the first to make this case. Alec MacGillis articulated it at length, and in depth, in the New York Times in October. He argued:
By segregating themselves in narrow slices of the country, Democrats have also made it harder to make their own case. They are forever preaching to the converted, while their social distance also leaves them unprepared for what’s coming from the other end of the spectrum. Changing that would mean adopting a broader notion of what it means to live in a happening place, and also exposing themselves to discomforts that most people naturally avoid, given the human tendency to seek out our own kind.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that liberals moving to swing states could change the electoral map. For such a move to have any significant effect, a lot of people would have to do it.
What I can say is that it’s a lot more productive than moving to Canada. Even just talking about it is more productive than talking about moving to Canada, because it signals that you care about your country and you’d rather fight for it than abandon it.