Thursday, November 10, 2016

Oh, Canada


Some of what follows is from a column I wrote early last spring but it seems especially pertinent now as we grope through the darkness of a Trump presidency.

America is a country of slogans, rallying cries born from the fear and despair of uncertain times.

In the past, there has been “Remember the Maine,” “Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead” and “Nixon’s the One.”  Some of them have inspired us.

This week, “Canada, Here We Come” has joined the list.

Many have cast their gazes northward looking for safe haven from the perceived horrors of a Trump administration.

I tend to dismiss these vows as so much political hand-wringing, born more of angst than determination.

And abandonment in the face of adversity is a cure worse than the disease. After all, if we all hit the road every time someone we opposed was elected to public office, our country would be as vacant as a politician’s promise.

But there seems to be momentum here. On election night, Canada’s citizenship and immigration website crashed as it was flooded with interest.

Remi Lariviere, a spokesman for the Canadian immigration agency, told the New York Times Wednesday morning that the cause was “a significant increase in the volume of traffic.”

By then, the site was taking about half a minute to load but was accessible shortly before 8 a.m. Eastern. “Move to Canada” remained among the top trending search topics on Google.

This comes as no surprise to Canadians. Twelve years ago, as George W. Bush took a commanding lead over John F. Kerry in the polls, Canadian immigration applications tripled. Visits to the immigration department's website skyrocketed from an average of 20,000 per day to 115,000 the day after Bush won the election. 

And, according to one Canadian publication, American conservatives are not immune. “Move to Canada” +Obama spiked in 2008, and was most popular in southern states. It doesn’t appear, however, that many of them actually fled a Democrat in the White House.

That could be because a county known for higher taxes, universal health care and stringent gun control may not have been the paradise they sought.

Last Spring, as Trump was emerging as a bona fide candidate, Rob Calabrese, a radio host in Nova Scotia, was inundated by more than 3,000 inquiries after he, on a lark, set up a website last month inviting anti-Trump Americans to move to Cape Breton, an island along the Atlantic coast that has lost population as industries have left.

One wag called it “The Land of the Flee.”

But while Canadians are a friendly and welcoming people, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want you to move next door.

Unless you fall into certain categories, including students in higher education or someone trained in a list of professions found in the North American Free Trade Agreement, you could be out of luck.

“Sometimes I’ve had Americans who feel that they can just drive across the border,” said one immigration lawyer. “It comes as a surprise to them, ‘Oh what do you mean, I have to qualify?’ Yes, you do have to qualify.”

And even those who do can expect to spend six years or more doing paperwork and living on Canada’s equivalent of a green card to build up residency requirements. Of course, a Trump presidency could be over by then.

There are other obstacles and adjustments as explained by Margaret Wente, an American-born columnist at The Globe and Mail in Toronto. There is no good Southern barbecue, she said, a house in Vancouver will cost you $2.4 million and the brutal winters can last six months.

Then there are the cultural differences, she added: “You will have to learn some weird local customs, like saying ‘sorry’ when you bump into someone on the sidewalk.”

My advice:  if you want to live in blissful isolation, go to the North Woods of Maine or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. That way you can maintain your citizenship even as you curse the country that bestowed it upon you.

Or better yet, stay and fight for what you believe in.  It’s the American way.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.


Thursday, November 03, 2016

Signs of the Times


Understanding the subtleties of presidential polling is like trying to decipher the fine print on your cell phone bill.

Headache inducing.

I remain transfixed by the polls, however. Like many of my fellow Americans, I want to know how this insufferable bloodbath is going to turn out.

Well, the polls tell us Hillary Clinton is winning. No, wait, Donald Trump may be winning. But Poll A is using faulty data. And Poll B has a political agenda.

Poll C tells us Trump could win if the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars. Poll D is being manipulated by Russian hackers. Or maybe it’s North Koreans.

There is only one thing to do. Conduct your own research. Which is what I have done using the lightly regarded and completely unscientific PYS method.

PYS stands for Political Yard Signs and I spent the last couple of days prowling my Zip code and carefully tabulating the numbers of signs for each candidate.

My conclusions:  nobody is passionate enough about either one of these folks to stick a sign in their front yard.

I found two Clinton signs, two signs for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and none for Trump. Which is somewhat surprising since our neck of the woods is thick with Republicans.

Maybe people who support Trump are fearful that by displaying a sign they will be identified as racist, misogynistic no-nothings. Which, of course, they would be.

Or maybe it’s because, according to their web site, a Trump yard sign will set you back $20 to $30.  Clinton’s go for a more modest 12 bucks.

The most signs I saw in my neighborhood were in support of a local community college bond issue.  Apparently, there’s nothing like sprucing up the old junior college to get the juices flowing.

What does this all mean?  Very little as it turns out.

Phillip Bump, writing in the Washington Post, explained it this way:

“The problem with lawn signs, as any campaign manager would probably tell you, is that they are expensive, annoying, logistically tricky to distribute and — most importantly — don’t seem to do much of anything.
“Candidates like to feel as if they’re winning. Campaign managers like to know that they’re winning or at least making progress. So campaign managers like things that have either measurable effects on voters (like identifying targeted supporters) or demonstrated past effects (like advertising). Lawn signs don’t fit into either category.”

The Post story cited a study by Donald Green, a professor at Columbia University who has done decades of work assessing the utility of various methods of voter outreach. Green partnered with researchers at universities in Upstate New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia to test signs in four races at the federal, state and local level.

Their conclusion:  “[I]t appears that signs typically have a modest effect on advertising candidates’ vote shares — an effect that is probably greater than zero but unlikely to be large enough to alter the outcome of a contest that would otherwise be decided by more than a few percentage points.”

In other words, the next time you feel the urge to erect a political sign on  your front yard, remember this: you’re probably not going to change anybody’s mind. 

But this is a great country. Even the millions of voters who don’t like either candidate can express their feelings via yard signs.

There’s the “We’re All Screwed 2016” model, another that says “Vote Nobody,” the Uncle Sam model that declares, “I Want You to Stop Voting for Idiots” and one that offers three choices:  “I Am (1) A Democrat; (2) A Republican or (3) Drinking Another Glass of Wine.”

Finally, there’s a sign that declares in not so subtle language that “Everyone Sucks. The U.S. Is Doomed.”

Which just might be the prevailing sentiment next week.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com.