Tens of millions of Americans love MAGA more than they love democracy. After four years of lawbreaking and norm-busting, there can be no illusions about President Donald Trump. His first term culminated in an open effort to sabotage the legitimacy of the election and prevent Americans from voting. His rallies in the final week of the campaign were red-drenched festivals of mass hate, autocratic self-absorption, and boredom, without a glimmer of a better future on offer—and they might have put Trump over the top in Florida and elsewhere. Even as “freedom-loving people” came out in unprecedented millions to vote, their readiness to throw away their republican institutions along with their dignity and grasp of facts suggests that many Americans have lost the basic qualities that the Founders believed essential to self-government. There is no obvious way to reverse this decline, which shows signs of infecting elements of the other side as well.
But the composition of Trump’s followers, with a large minority of Latino voters and a nontrivial number of Black voters, makes their motivations more various and complicated than the single, somehow reassuring cause that progressives settled on after 2016: racism. There turn out to be many different reasons different kinds of people want to fling themselves at the feet of a con man. The votes show that progressives’ habit of seeing Americans as molecules dissolved in vast and undifferentiated ethnic and racial solutions without individual agency is both analytically misleading and politically self-defeating, doing actual harm to the cause of equality.