Every father has a moral obligation to protect the life, safety, and welfare of his children. This obligation extends to bringing the children up in an environment where they feel safe enough to thrive, succeed, and live happy, successful lives.
I can’t raise my daughters in Trump’s United States without violating that moral obligation.
My obligation to my daughters is more than sufficient reason to compel me to move. However, there are other reasons that might themselves also be sufficient to compel a move. In combination, I do not feel I have a choice.
We are moving to the clean, free Canadian city of Vancouver, British Columbia. I was born in Montreal, Canada, but spent the last 41 years in the United States. I’ve paid millions of dollars in taxes. I’ve tutored prisoners and children with learning issues. I’ve served on non-profit boards and made many charitable contributions. I’ve spent around a thousand hours working on political campaigns. I’ve represented poor families pro-bono as an attorney. In other words, I believe in Americans. I love my fellow Americans. But their choice in November has upended my world.
When George W. Bush was appointed to the Presidency by a one vote margin on the Supreme Court, despite losing the popular vote and quite possibly losing Florida, I was disappointed but didn’t even consider leaving the country. My daughter was still safe, and I knew that political differences would not stop George W. Bush from going to extraordinary measures to ensure that the United States remained a stable, rational, functioning and safe democracy. I had my second daughter during his Presidency, and it never occurred to me that he would intentionally put her at risk. I conceived my third daughter during the 2008 campaign, knowing that Obama and McCain were both decent, rational Americans and my family would be safe.
In 1988, Democratic Presidential Nominee Mike Dukakis (in)famously said “this election is not about ideology – it is about competence”. That line did nothing to help him win, because George H.W. Bush was competent. Like all elections before 2016, that one was about ideology. 2016 was different.
I campaigned hard against Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primaries, and if I’m honest with myself, a lot of the reason for that is that I am a very loyal person, and Barack Obama, while not by any stretch somebody I was friends with at Harvard Law, was a classmate. Hillary Clinton's campaign did things in 2008 that I found quite questionable. I never knew for sure, but when I did voter protection work in Texas and Pennsylvania during the 2008 primaries, I was assigned to districts with mayors that supported Hillary and voters that leaned strongly to Obama. Magically, coincidentally, or for a pernicious reason, polling places in both states were moved for the first time in memory. I spent hours on election day in Philadelphia and Corpus Christie helping voters figure out where their new polling place was. That experience shaped my view of the Clintons in a negative way.
Perhaps even worse, at least from the perspective of “which candidate is genuinely caring”, during the 2008 campaign, my daughter wrote a letter to candidate Barack Obama and quickly received a gracious response not advocating his candidacy, but instead exhorting her to reach for the stars. It is a letter that she framed, and that framed her feeling that politicians can care about people. By contrast, my youngest daughters wrote letters to candidate Hillary Clinton thanking her for proving that girls can aim for anything and succeed – or as one daughter put it, “I think I still want to be a veterinarian and tattoo artist, but maybe I’ll be president”. They never got a response – although I continued to get my at-least-daily email asking for money. For somebody who ran on her work with children, this seemed to expose her as disingenuous.
While Hillary Clinton was by no means my first choice in 2016, when the General Election rolled around, it was clear that it would be President Clinton or President Trump – and the choice became easy. When I vote, my screening process is simple: Is this person sane, competent, and capable of keeping my family – indeed all people – safe? If the answer is no, I need look no further. If Trump had run as a Democrat, pushing a liberal agenda, against arch-conservative Ted Cruz, my initial screening would have been all I needed to know: I would have supported Cruz. I would have gone home and taken a shower after voting to wash off the shame, but at least Cruz would have delivered what we all need: A stable, functioning, rational government led by somebody smart enough to know the difference between fantasy and reality.
There may be multiple universes, but we live in this one. There might have been alternative facts (no, not the Trump alternative facts, but facts that might have been had things been different), but we live in a world with the facts as they are. And the facts as they are mean one thing: After Trump's election, the United States is no longer a stable, functioning democracy. This is, after all, a man who threatened to not accept the results of the election unless he won. Who claims that his election was tainted by millions of unlawful votes, yet bristles at any insinuation that his election was not legitimate.
While I no longer believe we have a functioning federal government, the problem runs far deeper. When Trump was campaigning, he made it appear just fine to mock the disabled, call all Mexicans criminals, and treat women as meat to be handled. His failure to even mention Jews in his statement on Holocaust Remembrance day was yet another anti semitic dog-whistle.
Without putting my kids on the spot by using exact quotes, I can say that I have one daughter who has several times asked not to go to school because a boy keeps threatening to grab her genitals. I have another daughter who says she is being excluded because of her religion. When one of your kids makes a list of Hanukkah gifts she would like, having Jews treated as equals at her public school should not be at the top.
I also cannot bring up my daughters in a country where women are so relegated to the barefoot and pregnant role that the President thinks it is acceptable to sign an order impacting only women, surrounded by a group of white men.
Finally, the brewing constitutional crisis is something I don't want to be here for. When Trump tries to circumvent the 10th Amendment by withholding funds from cities that refuse to allow the federal government to order state employees around; when Trump ignores lawful federal court orders; when Trump fires a deputy attorney general because she took the same position as the federal courts; when Trump signs an executive order that (probably) violates the First Amendment's establishment clause -- when all of those things happen in the first week of his Presidency, I worry. A lot. Trump fancies himself a "leader" in the mould of Putin, and I wouldn't put it beyond him to try to bring cities into line by rolling tanks down our streets. He's simply so vindictive, irrational, and willing to throw out 200+ years of American freedoms that I can't rule anything out.
So we are moving. It is happening. I hate that I feel forced to leave a nation that I love, but forced I am.