In late 2011, the Wall Street Journal published a curiously titled editorial, “Democrats against Democracy.” Written by James Taranto, one of the Journal ’s conservative columnists, the piece documented a disturbing trend besetting democracy in America. Taranto claimed that American Democrats, or those who identified themselves as liberal and progressive, were increasingly turning their backs on democracy. Taranto was apprehensive that still more democrats would begin turning against democracy, spurred on by those on the American political left and by popular political movements like Occupy. In this essay, I take up and extend Taranto’s claim by exploring how democrats against democracy is manifesting in America beyond the relative minority who took to the streets as part of movements like Occupy. Basing my analysis on the Netflix series House of Cards, and the recent works of Sheldon Wolin and Henry Giroux, I demonstrate how standard it has become for democrats, broadly conceived, to use democracy as a means of producing antidemocratic and inequitable outcomes. I argue that Taranto’s analysis, though important, is tainted by his conservative outlook and, as such, misses the most pernicious and dystopic aspects of America’s democratic system, which not only permits but requires democrats to use democracy for their own ends. Here, it is not just left-leaning progressives and Democratic Party faithfuls we need to concern ourselves with. Private citizens, elected political representatives of all stripes, and the corporate and media elite are all engaged in the deceit, which has as its end point the decapitation of democracy.
Democrats against Democracy
Mark Chou is lecturer in politics at Australian Catholic University. He is the author of Democracy against Itself: Sustaining an Unsustainable Idea (2014), Theorising Democide: Why and How Democracies Fail (2013), and Greek Tragedy and Contemporary Democracy (2012). With Jean-Paul Gagnon, he edits the new international journal Democratic Theory.