There are a lot of new polls that show that people [especially millennials] don’t seem to be as committed to democracy as their parents or grandparents. This is logical since the end of the Cold War means we don’t have a nemesis who favors the alternative, totalitarianism. China is the other reason:
Our current greatest economic competitor is China and it seems to be winning some of the hearts and minds of our people. Even though it is nothing more than a global economic parasite it preduces a tremendous amount of propaganda devoted to celebrating its burgeoning economic success. It publishes spectacular growth statistics and suppresses all dissenting voices. It manufactures most of the consumer goods we buy every day. How can such a bad place with bad people make all the toys and clothes we love? Apparently their version of totalitarianism seems to work quite well.
On the other hand we have perfect proof that democracy is failing because we have elected a brainless narcissist to be our president. This juxtaposition naturally supports the thesis that a competent dictator is better than an elected idiot. Democrats revere China while Republicans revere Russia. Consumerism has defeated economic nationalism in such a way that people look to Apple Computer for guidance rather than their political leaders. FIfty years ago Dell Computer would never have considered Cuba or the Soviet union as places to locate offshore production to take advantage of lower wages. They would’ve been pilloried both for offshoring and for being pro-communist. (Their goods would have been stopped at our border.)
Yes, the cold war is over so such fear and paranoia would be misplaced in today’s world. But we have a new adversary – one that is utterly ethnocentric and unpredictable. They suck our blood, suppress free speech, block our exports and we love them because iPhones are cheap.
If their products are so good, how bad can their political system be? Or to put it the other way, if we seem to be economic losers then maybe our political system needs to be reworked a la Hungary or Poland? Nationalists are Nazis now so sovereignty is bad and globalism must be good. Manichaeism works. Ironically, the countries whose political systems we revere are completely nationalist in nature. You can’t hate the alt right and be indifferent towards democracy, just like Germans couldn’t embrace Hitler and free speech.
The problem we have is that Chinese totalitarianism and highly controlled economy is succeeding with regard to its primary goal – catching up to us. Yes they have a terrible maldistribution of income but so do we. Our economists detest government ownership of industry but when it comes to China they’re OK with it. Young people see these mixed signals. We can’t pronounce our love of freedom and congratulate Putin on his election victories. We can’t abhor protecting our own steel industry while looking the other way when China protects all its industries.
Every new American college graduate should be made to spend a week wearing a gas mask in Shanghai – then we should hear less about their indifference towards democracy.