As the UK debates whether to leave the EU, across the pond Americans are debating whether to leave America if Donald Trump is elected president. A September 2015 analysis of Twitter found 200,000 tweets expressing intent to leave a Trump-led America. Among those tweets, 11,000 voiced a preference for resettling in the UK. A few months on, the full number of Americans who now share that sentiment is no doubt in the millions.
A January 2016 poll found that a majority--54%--of young Americans, aged 18 to 35, would feel like leaving America if Trump became the president. Among young black Americans the figure was 73%. Even a third of Republicans feel the same way.
Amidst all the talk of a Brexit from Europe, is Britain ready for a potential Amerexit to Britain? At this point in the campaign, most Americans who threaten to leave still do so half jokingly. "I will move to [country X] if [candidate Y] wins" is a perennial trope in American politics. But now it's getting more serious.
Trump is a racial and religious demagogue unlike anything the US has seen in decades. He has pledged to deport millions of Mexicans and keep them out with a giant wall, called for a complete ban on Muslim visitors, and said nasty things about just about everyone else. And somehow he has a huge, enthusiastic following. Trump has won now the majority of Republican state primary contests, giving the billionaire real estate mogul a commanding lead in the number of state delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination. I still think it's highly unlikely he could ever win the general election, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both have their political vulnerabilities. Another major terrorist attack in the United States or another Western country would almost certainly propel Trump's appeal in a general election. After all, Trump claimed that "Clinton created ISIS with Obama" and he has promised to "bomb the s--- out of 'em." A reality TV star with policy views totally detached from reality, Trump is currently creating a terrifying new reality. Even if he doesn't win the White House, much damage has already been done. Responsible candidates preach a message of unity and working together to promote the common good. Not so with Trump. He both reflects and exacerbates the deep social divisions in contemporary America. His campaign preys upon prejudices. A CBS News poll found that 75% of South Carolina Republican voters supported Trump's proposed ban on Muslims. For nearly a year Trump has dominated and polluted American public discourse with his vulgarity, demagoguery, and conspiracy theories. His rise has left many Americans feeling depressed about the state of their republic.
The ironies are as rich as Donald Trump. His promise to "Make America Great Again" leaves millions of voters deeply fearful of the future. His vociferously anti-immigrant platform spurs thoughts of emigration from America. For Britons to appreciate just how scary Trump is, imagine a candidate who combines the wealth and flair of Lord Sugar, the politics of Nigel Farage, the brash insensitivity of Katie Hopkins, and of course the hair of Boris Johnson. Many Brits would want to leave Britain if a Mr Sufarhopson ever rose to power.
A Trump-esque figure is all the scarier in the American system because the US president is both the head of government and head of state. And without an established church, the American president serves as the nation's de facto "pastor-in-chief." So just imagine Donald Trump as simultaneously filling the roles of prime minister, monarch, and archbishop. As an American already living in Britain, my Facebook newsfeed these days is constant deluge of posts bemoaning life in Trump's America. Many of my friends comment on their desire to leave America for lands, including Britain, where Trump can't be president and where the rise of someone like Trump would be unthinkable. Britain has made itself an attractive destination for America's would-be refugees. Over half a million people signed the petition to ban Trump from UK entry. British MPs then spent three glorious hours debating the petition and bashing Trump as 'bonkers', a 'buffoon', and even a 'wazzock' -- an insult that Americans don't understand but we know it must be bad if it was used to describe Donald Trump. Cameron didn't support the Trump ban but he nonetheless became a heroic Anti-Trump figure in the eyes of many admiring Americans for his willingness to denounce Trump's ideas as "divisive, stupid, and wrong". Americans weary and wary of Trump view Britain as an island of sanity and civility. Britons should feel rightfully proud that so many Americans would choose to resettle here if compelled to flee. I don't really think we'll see a mass exodus of Americans anytime soon, but I hope Britons would open their arms to any American refugees who do come across the pond if Trump becomes the wazzock-in-chief.