The US presidential elections of 2016 were an eye opener for those remotely interested in demographic changes that come with rural-urban migration. As states ticked themselves off as democratic and republican, it became apparent that the premise of these elections was historical repetition – the American Civil War lives to this day. The divide created through these elections is visible. The likes of Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther are rolling in their graves today, realising that the freedom they fought for is still admonished by white frat boys donning red baseball caps. The south and Midwest were and still are not ready for the progression delineated by the Democratic Party.

However, labelling these states as ignorant makes us equally ignorant. It is not simply blue and red. The problem lies even deeper, and unfortunately it is the national ethos of the United States of America, i.e. the American dream. The truth of the matter is that the American dream does not exist in small towns. To be big, you must go to the big city. This migration is limited to the truly independent, progressive and daring population of small town dwellers. Once they leave, it becomes close to impossible to return home. Big, metropolitan cities are complicated webs of hopes and promises, and regardless of fulfilment, big cities are addictive and city dwellers, insatiable. The fast pace of big cities makes the American dream even more tangible, because everyone is visibly racing for first place. We all rush into the Express 2 train because the 1 train will take 4 minutes longer. We think we are the majority.

But democracy fails us and our misplaced sense of confidence. Big cities are not the majority – they are simply densely populated zones full of minorities with diverse ideologies. These differing ideologies make urban votes tougher to lock. Trump found his way to the smaller towns where small town dwellers waited for the American dream to come to them. This was their basic necessity, the majority calling. And so, to make “America great again” became their anthem and it reverberated to the corners of each state, where ultimately their votes made the one percent difference. Snatching the coastal votes did not matter this year – Trumps gymnasium rallies traversed the states, and the echoes of his squeaking shoes across courts silenced Clinton’s following footsteps. Small towns were happy to host Trump’s ideas because they weren’t radical – they were simply parochial and myopic. Closeted haters of the LGBTQ community, Muslim community, Black community and women were no longer asked to remain in their closets and ironically, they came out, and they voted. Their weaknesses and fears were Trump’s quarters for the slot machine of a campaign he created. He took a gamble and he hit the jack-pot. He learnt from the best.

Give the masses their basic needs, this tactic is tried and tested. Old age dictators such as Hitler and Mussolini preached greatness and solidarity in working towards restoration of their country’s greatness because German and Italian masses sought greatness in their moment of weakness. Roti, kapra, makkaan became Bhutto’s anthem because he tapped into the Pakistani dream and today, whoever promises to eradicate the power outage and lights up the country, gets our vote. Trump supporters want the American dream in their towns, and in the rural areas, they are the “silent majority”. As Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Empty University in Atlanta, said, “What we’re seeing across the country is that Trump is just outperforming other recent Republican candidates in a lot of these smaller, rural areas, and in small towns—in some areas that were once Democratic. He’s getting huge margins out of these rural areas.”

It’s disappointing to witness this shift in political history, from Trump’s innocuous cameos to a full-fledged protagonist role on the forefront of American politics. An astute observer of the past, he’s confirmed a proverb, oft repeated and known to every one; that history indeed repeats itself. Time and time again, shrewd politicians, backed by selfish economic and business motives, have tapped into the general consternation of the masses. These anxieties are prevalent in smaller town because of lack of exposure and diversity. Your rural areas hone these fears because, with us rural escapists, sensibility escapes with our urban consciousness. We move to bigger, greater cities hoping to broaden our horizons and we forget the conservatism we leave behind. It’s our responsibility to educate and liberalise our smaller city mindsets, so that right wing bigots can stop exploiting fears of the other, the new. This white lash is not shocking, it’s only disappointing that we thought we moved on but in fact, we left a lot of people behind.