What if the anxiety gripping the parties was asymmetric in the other direction? Conservatives don’t see politics as just a matter of elective office, but of power generally. And they notice that the major corporations, Hollywood and pop culture, academia, what’s left of mainstream media, most local institutions, the leadership class of their own movements through the years, and even their own churches are substantially to their left politically. They also notice that progressives notch major political and cultural wins even from conservative elites, and even following conservative victories.
Hamid might have noticed that conservative activism was born over “despair” of the sort he describes. It was born of the observation that even winning elections wasn’t enough to secure political victories. Instead of the Electoral College or the Senate, conservatives had to face the more inscrutable Supreme Court, which for years overturned conservative legislation and enacted progressive victories that had no chance of receiving a democratic mandate. Conservatives’ response was to double down on electoral strategies, making an explicit case that they needed to win elections to reform the judiciary. Why didn’t conservatives simply pout and threaten to abandon the democratic process altogether, as Hamid admits liberals are wont to do?
Perhaps because conservatives then, as now, knew on which side of the divide the institutional and oligarchic power landed.