‘I simply need peace of thoughts’: People mull leaving US if Trump wins once more | US elections 2020
The American Gabi Mayers booked a flight to London before election day.
She loves the United States. A lot of. But she says life is tough enough without the specter of soaring gun sales, extremists planning to kidnap elected officials, and brawls in Times Square amid a caravan of maskless Donald Trump supporters who disregard social distancing measures. If Trump wins a second term on Tuesday, that will be the last straw.
“All I’ve ever wanted is just to be happy and quiet. And I can’t do that in this country, ”said Mayers, a 25-year-old producer in New York City.
Mayers intends to go about a month and a half initially, and she isn’t the only one with that instinct. Faced with a country that appears to be losing its democratic ideals, some worried Americans are grappling with the question of whether to flee.
“Since Donald Trump was elected president, there have been times when I’ve felt insecure in this country in very real ways,” said Jennifer Finney Boylan, a transgender activist, opinion writer at the New York Times and professor at Barnard College.
“Strangers come up to me on the street and threaten me, and I see a government that has done everything it can to humiliate the humanity of people like me.”
Although Boylan largely indulged in a fantasy when she began exploring where to actually go, as time went on, the notion sounded less like a joke.
“I’m not sure I can hold out another four years,” said Boylan, who wrote one of her columns on how a “generation of Americans” are feeling the urge to “get the hell out of the US.”
“I’m far from being alone with that,” she said.
After a presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in September, dubbed a national humiliation, rising Google searches pointed to panic among people looking for answers on how to move to Canada or New Zealand. But even as Americans begin planning their escape from Trumpland, they do so with a lot of guilt, heartache, and amazement.
“That seems like something new,” said Inez McGee, a retiree in California. She had never heard other people talk about leaving the United States before, let alone thought about it – not even during the craziest days of Richard Nixon’s presidency, which ended in resignation.
In 2016, Inez, like many others, joked that he would get out if Trump were elected. Most, like Inez, did not implement the idea.
Then came a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi rammed his car into anti-racist protesters and killed Heather Heyer. Since anger and vitriol make the country almost unrecognizable, she can now leave for years if Trump wins office again.
Her husband Jim, meanwhile, feels at odds with leaving his family behind to quietly retreat elsewhere.
“This is our country,” he said. “We don’t want to pass it on to people who abuse it.”
Trump follows Biden in national and major state polls, but the polls were previously wrong. Hillary Clinton won the 2016 referendum by nearly three million votes, but that doesn’t determine who becomes president.
“I didn’t want to be in America ruled by Donald Trump. It was so basic and so clear, ”said Audrey Edwards, author of American Runaway.
Edwards had started a life in Paris before the coronavirus pandemic. After she returned to the US earlier this year, she was stranded in the US as countries, including France, banned most American visitors.
“If Trump is re-elected – and I really don’t think he will be – but if he is re-elected, we’ll be in a nightmare that we might not be able to get out of here,” Edwards said.
Travel restrictions aside, expats still face serious restrictions on where to settle in the long term. Young people with funds may find their way out of the country through school, work, or marriage. Wealthy retirees could potentially forego their health insurance and grandchildren in order to start new lives in Latin America.
But “I would imagine that it would be virtually impossible for the vast majority of Americans who might want to leave to actually go to another country,” said Demetrios Papademetriou, a distinguished transatlantic fellow and president emeritus at the Institute for Migration Policy .
Some Americans speculate online about whether they could win asylum abroad. But “it is impossible to win an asylum application” just because Trump is re-elected, said Papademetriou.
Latoya Brown, who is from Alabama but lives in Ghana, was alarmed by the chatter on social media, where users lament the sociopolitical climate of America and talk about their plans to leave the country. She has written a book warning readers of the less romantic realities that await them if they actually move to West Africa.
“I’m kind of protecting myself,” said Brown. “But those who come here don’t know any better.”
Beverly Bartlett, a New York City minister, is searching for churches in Scotland – or how to immigrate to New Zealand and Canada – when she hears reports that Trump may still win the electoral college.
But at least for the moment, she says that she is trying to follow Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s example.
The German theologian, who sought refuge in the United States during World War II, instead returned to Germany as part of the resistance and was later executed.
“As much as I want to go, it’s a privilege to even think about it,” said Bartlett. “It’s probably better to stay here and keep fighting, knowing that most people can’t leave.”