When I was making What Is Democracy? I interviewed some young Republicans. I don’t normally talk to twenty-two-year-old Trump supporters, and I assumed that they were going to give me the conservative spiel that democracy is free markets and everyone having a chance to duke it out in the marketplace and trickle-down economics and blah, blah, blah. Instead they told me they don’t like democracy, because democracy is about the majority wanting to improve their situation, and they, the young Republicans, are part of a minority of affluent white people. They literally mocked democracy on camera; that scared me.
They see capitalism as more valuable than democracy, because capitalism benefits them. And if the masses are empowered, they’re going to want to take rich white people down a peg. These young Republicans recognize that their status is dependent on others being impoverished. They recognize that if we had a popular vote in this country, and not the Electoral College, Republicans would not win the presidency. They recognize that controlling a majority of seats on the Supreme Court is essential to imposing their agenda. It’s not going to happen through mobilizing voters, because the policies they support are genuinely not popular.
What’s increasingly clear is that the far Right is abandoning democracy. It sees democracy as the enemy. It is a politics of aristocracy, a politics of hierarchy. I have gone on deep dives into far-Right subcultures online, and what they hate about democracy is the idea of equality at the center of it.
I do not see the problem of our time as one of populism and an overly passionate majority. I see the problem as an affluent minority who are tired of democracy and the equality that it demands. You find this in the bowels of the Internet, but you also find it in mainstream conservative thinkers like George Will. On the surface his new book looks like a standard-issue political treatise, but he’s basically saying that democracy has gone too far and is at odds with American conservatism. During the Cold War it was easy for conservatives to promote U.S. democracy over Soviet communism, but now that democracy means including all these groups and sharing resources and expanding the government, conservatives are going back to their roots and saying democracy is a problem.