In the greatest science-fiction movie ever made, Morpheus gives Neo a choice. The blue pill puts him back to his dream-like state and returns him to the simulation of the Matrix. The red pill, on the other hand, would take him down the rabbit hole of reality.
While Democrats offered Americans the Blue Pill – a return to normalcy and a familiar world of the pre-Trump era – the Republicans offered them the Red Pill, a continuation down the rabbit hole.
One could say that in his own way, Trump channelled his inner Neo this election. While Mr Anderson bends the rule of space-time-gravity in the Matrix, Trump breaks pre-set rules of political engagement.
He inhabits a different moral plane from mere mortals – a Bart Simpson-meets-Lovecraft twilight zone – where he doesn’t have to pay for his own actions.
An exit poll suggests Trump increased his vote share amid every demographic barring white males.
In fact, the received wisdom – as opposed to the opinion polls – says that if there wasn’t a coronavirus pandemic, Trump would be waltzing back into the White House dancing to YMCA.
In 2016, Americans picked the host of The Apprentice over a seasoned politician who had spent years in the White House. Many pundits considered it a Black Swan event.
Four years later, nearly 70 million Americans have already voted for Donald Trump. The Democrats, despite spending and raising unprecedented funds, did terribly in both the House and the Senate.
Bill Clinton might have been the last challenger to unseat an incumbent, but combined with the House and Senate, the results show that Americans simply refused to swallow the Blue Pill.
How is it that so many Americans are willing to back a man we’ve been told is so reprehensible as Trump?
For starters, thanks in part to Trump’s vainglorious Twitter-triggering exterior, the press judges him more often by his words and tweets, not deeds.
Journalist Mehdi Hasan had a two-minute monologue on Trump’s failures which included among other things his golf trips, his impeachment, his constant White House run-ins, his coronavirus response, his role in the Khashoggi murder and the allegations of sexual harassment against him.
He didn’t have a word to say about any of Trump’s achievements which include a 33% increase in GDP (pre-COVID-19), which is twice the last record set in in 1950.
Trump’s hands-on approach to foreign policy is ostensibly aimed at winning a Nobel Peace Prize that Obama got for simply existing, and it has got mixed results. Trump’s numerous detractors failed to mention that under his watch the US neutralised ISIS chief Abu-al-Baghdadi (who POTUS called Abu Baker All Bag Daddy) and Iran’s General Quasem Soleimani.
His administration also helped Washington realise that Beijing was Uncle Sam’s greatest existential threat. Shifting the US embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem and getting the Gulf states to admit they were playing footsie with Israel was another landmark.
If the media fails to recognise Trump’s achievements, it also treats his opponents with kid gloves. The woman who accused Joe Biden barely got heard. While Trump’s misdemeanours are rightly castigated, no one mentions Kamala Harris conjuring a ‘freedom-fighting’ background for her grandfather, appropriating black culture by claiming to listen to Tupac, or not even being able to pronounce her own name.
Stripped of the Platonian illusion of one’s social media echo-chamber, one can see that the Democratic campaign was based entirely on Joe Biden not being Donald Trump, bereft of any ideas. And the ideas they had – ‘defund the police’, ‘no more billionaires’, ‘punch a Nazi’ and more, were enough to dissuade any sane individual.
Of course, Republicans benefited from their age-old tricks like gerrymandering, but Biden was for all intents and purposes, a consensus candidate. Democrats lacked a clear vision of who they stood for.
Some saw ‘Sleepy Joe’ as a placeholder for Kamala Harris and the far-Left ‘progressive’ politics of the Squad. The Black Lives Matter protests with Antifa spiralled out of control in Democrat-controlled areas but the party refused to condemn the anarchy.
Americans, it would seem, have had enough. They are tired of being called bigots for not remembering 50 different pronouns. For a nation like America that lives by its First Amendment, the curtailing of freedom of speech is something they don’t take too kindly.
On the flip side, and a tad ironically, they are also deeply patriotic and no matter how one puts it, taking a knee or flag burning isn’t seen as speaking out against inequities of minorities, but as a criticism of the star-spangled banner.
Also, as Fareed Zakaria noted, Democrats failed to gain a handle on minorities, who they treat as one monolith. He rightly points out that Democrats extrapolated the black lived experience to other minorities, failing to notice that others found a country “receptive to foreigners”.
The Trumpian America that’s painted by Democrats is in stark contrast to the real lived experience of many immigrants. Democratic hopeful Andrew Yang hit the nail on the head when he said that in the minds of rural folks, Democrats had taken on the role of coastal urban elites who are more ‘concerned about policing various cultural issues’ than improving their way of life.
Biden might return to the White House, but the results show that the Trumpian era of populism is definitely not over.
In the Matrix, Neo tells the machines: “I'm gonna show them a world without you, a world without rules and controls, without borders and boundaries… a world where anything is possible. Where you go from here is a choice I leave to you.” Trump might not have managed it this time, but he showed a lot of Americans a world beyond what they thought feasible. Where they go from here, is really up to them.
(Nirmalya Dutta is the Web Editor of The Free Press Journal. The views expressed in this piece are personal.)