Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., gestures during a campaign rally Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in Virginia Beach, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Expat Americans in Canada gear up to weigh in on Democratic primary race

Canada is home to the biggest proportion of Americans living abroad

Even though they live in Canada, expatriate Americans north of the border are gearing up to weigh in on the Democratic nomination on Super Tuesday and beyond as the battle to challenge Donald Trump appears poised to morph into an ideological battle between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

Of the estimated 3 million voting-age U.S. citizens living outside the country, Canada is home to the most in the world: more than 622,000 in 2016, says the Federal Voting Assistance Program. Of those, however, a paltry 5.3 per cent cast a ballot in the election that propelled Trump to the White House.

Democrats Abroad, the party’s official international wing, aims to change that in 2020 beginning with the primary race, which shifts into high gear this week with 14 states, one territory and expat voters around the world eligible to weigh in on their preferred nominee.

The Democrats Abroad Global Primary, which runs March 3-10, allows voters in 190 countries, representing every state and congressional district in the U.S., to cast ballots. The results will send 13 delegates to the party’s national convention in July, along with the eight Democrats Abroad members of the national committee. Some 19 polling stations will be set up across Canada, the bulk of them on Tuesday.

The numbers pale in comparison with the bonanza available to candidates on Super Tuesday itself — 1,357 delegates from 14 states and one territory, including California and Texas, the two biggest prizes of primary season. But every vote counts, especially in a delegate-based system, said Liz Olin, a Sanders supporter and member of ”Toronto for Bernie,” a group actively drumming up Canadian support for the independent senator from Vermont.

“Reaching U.S. citizens in Canada is of great importance … many people we talk to don’t realize they can vote or have never heard of the Democrats Abroad primary,” Olin said. ”Because the voting rate is typically so low, each vote in the global primary can have a significant impact — often around four times the impact of a vote in a state’s primary.”

In a recent online survey by the Angus Reid Institute, 28 per cent of respondents said they believed Canada-U.S. relations would improve the most with Sanders, an outsider and self-styled “democratic socialist” whose progressive policies, combative approach and “electability” against Trump have been giving moderate establishment Democrats heartburn for months.

Biden, Barack Obama’s vice-president and a moderate long seen as a viable Trump challenger thanks to his popularity with black and Latino voters, registered a distant second in that survey with just 14 per cent, followed by Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., at 10 per cent.

Biden flipped that script in dramatic fashion Saturday with his first-ever primary win in South Carolina, silencing critics who had placed his campaign on life support following dismal showings in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. But it will take Super Tuesday to determine whether he’s able to capitalize on his newfound momentum and prevent Sanders from establishing an insurmountable lead.

Tim Ellis, a self-described millennial expatriate who’s also active in the Toronto caucus of Democrats Abroad, described Sanders as a genuine, authentic political figure with the courage of his convictions — something young Americans have been craving in their leaders for generations.

“It is that authenticity, which Bernie has retained for decades despite being steeped in Washington, that makes him a once-in-a-generation leader, and that people respond to so fiercely,” Ellis said.

“We have grown up in a world suffused with marketing and sales pitches and an elite discourse that is built on half-truths and outright lies…. To us, Bernie is like a drink of fresh water in the desert.”

ALSO READ: Pelosi shreds Trump’s speech, right there on the podium

For Julie Buchanan, the vice-chair of Democrats Abroad Canada, the popularity of Sanders in her adoptive country and elsewhere around the world boils down to a single issue, the one that has been the cornerstone of his campaign: Medicare for All, the big-ticket pledge to replace the U.S. private-insurance health care patchwork with a single-payer, government-funded system.

“Most of us live in countries where health care is a human right,” Buchanan said. “Need I say more?”

For the rest of the Democratic field — Buttigieg, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and billionaire Mike Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who makes his ballot debut Tuesday — it could be a week of difficult conversations and heart-rending decisions.

All four have struggled to connect with black voters, who play a key role on Super Tuesday in places like Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee. Tom Steyer, the billionaire activist who spent $24 million on TV advertising in South Carolina in hopes of springboarding into contention going into this week, pulled the plug Saturday after finishing a distant third.

“We do a lot of math on this campaign,” Buttigieg said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“We’ll be assessing at every turn, not only what the right answer is for the campaign, but making sure that every step we take is in the best interest of the party and that goal of making sure we defeat Donald Trump, because our country can’t take four more years of this.”

James McCarten, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

PoliticsU.S.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack RCMP seeking witnesses to hillside hit-and-run

Did you see a man struck by a white Honda near Teskey and Stoneview Drive on Friday night?

Chilliwack partners unite to make sure kids don’t go hungry during the pandemic

Food donations to be dropped off Tuesday, April 7, at Salvation Army Church on Brooks Avenue

Fraser Valley auto sound business starts producing face shields

Certified Auto Sound & Security is doing what it can to help frontline healthcare workers.

Fabrication work for Vedder Bridge roundabout art project is well underway

Funds of $255K held in reserve from new bridge budget do not represent a new cost for artwork

Chilliwack school trustees using Zoom to conduct meetings during pandemic

Public participation not available, but staff taking public questions before and after meetings

B.C. secures motel, hotel rooms for COVID-19 shelter space

Community centres, rooms reserved for pandemic self-isolation

Look at hospitalizations, not recovery stats for COVID-19, B.C. professor says

Cases in hospital are a definitive count of people who have the novel coronavirus

B.C. First Nations want to launch fight of Trans Mountain pipeline approval

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada decided not to hear five challenges about the pipeline

N95 masks on the way for Canada after 3M reaches deal with White House

The Trump White House had ordered 3M to stop shipping masks to Canada

Here’s how to talk to people who aren’t taking physical distancing seriously

Approach the conversation with empathy says conflict expert

Fraser Valley auto sound business starts producing face shields

Certified Auto Sound & Security is doing what it can to help frontline healthcare workers.

B.C. clears more acute hospital beds as COVID-19 case growth slows

Province holding about 40% of beds empty for peak still to come

As 500K+ apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind

Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $2,000 per month

Most Read