Those of us over 40 wonder what’s going on. Maybe it’s that young Americans — and Westerners generally — have grown up without a fascist or communist enemy to pose an existential threat. The Berlin Wall has now been down longer than it was up, and no one under 35 will remember a time when unauthorized passage from East to West Berlin would get you shot. In a world where even the Communists are no longer communists (China’s state-capitalism is a far cry from Marx, to be sure), there’s no competing ideology forcing those who live in democracies to consider what life might be like without it.
Or maybe it’s that democracy in America no longer seems to be working. During the 1930s, economic depression led many to look abroad for alternatives to democracy and free-market capitalism. American millennials have never stood in a bread line, but they have experienced the most severe financial crisis since the 30s, a dramatic widening of the gap between richest and poorest, a hollowing out of the middle and working classes, and a level of dysfunction and petty partisan hostility in Washington that seems to get worse by the week.
Then there’s the Trump effect.