A reader asks: What is so bad about elitism? Is democracy a good thing in itself?
Rather than simply dismissing this question out of hand, I think it is often clarifying to try to think through and explain basic convictions that we so rarely have explicitly to defend that we lose track of what the stakes are in affirming them.
The short answer to the question is an easy one, of course (and verges on a dismissal): Elitists are always assholes and usually dumbasses: "If this was a dictatorship it would be a heck of a lot easier, as long as I am the dictator."
Of course, one can still affirm as desirable one's membership in who knows what kinds of rarefied subcultures, societies of weird enthusiasm, marginal headspaces, marvelously perverse lifeways, or incredibly arcane and difficult professions, and be therefore a kind of "elitist" in the pursuit of one's private path of perfection. But it seems to me that these essentially aesthetic and moralist projects are only elitist in the troubling anti-democratizing way under discussion when they acquire public ambitions, when they seek to dictate or circumvent the interminable process of pluralist politics, the ongoing reconciliation of the diverse aspirations of stakeholders who share the world with us even if they are not members of our moral communities or sympathetic to our esthetic lifeways.
Longer answer: Let us begin with Thomas Hobbes, from his Leviathan, CHAPTER XIII:
OF THE NATURAL CONDITION OF MANKIND AS CONCERNING THEIR FELICITY AND MISERY
NATURE hath made men so equal in the faculties of body and mind as that, though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body or of quicker mind than another, yet when all is reckoned together the difference between man and man is not so considerable as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he. For as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination or by confederacy with others that are in the same danger with himself.
And as to the faculties of the mind, setting aside the arts grounded upon words, and especially that skill of proceeding upon general and infallible rules, called science, which very few have and but in few things, as being not a native faculty born with us, nor attained, as prudence, while we look after some what else, I find yet a greater equality amongst men than that of strength. For prudence is but experience, which equal time equally bestows on all men in those things they equally apply themselves unto. That which may perhaps make such equality incredible is but a vain conceit of one's own wisdom, which almost all men think they have in a greater degree than the vulgar; that is, than all men but themselves, and a few others, whom by fame, or for concurring with themselves, they approve. For such is the nature of men that how so ever they may acknowledge many others to be more witty, or more eloquent or more learned, yet they will hardly believe there be many so wise as themselves; for they see their own wit at hand, and other men's at a distance. But this proveth rather that men are in that point equal, than unequal. For there is not ordinarily a greater sign of the equal distribution of any thing than that every man is contented with his share.
From this equality of ability arise the quality of hope in the attaining of our ends.
Hobbes and I part ways at this point in the argument, but up to this point in Chapter 13 I find little to disagree with at all.
As for your second question: "Is democracy a good thing in itself?"
I define democracy as the idea that people should have a say in the public decisions that affect them. Do you disagree that this is a good thing? Even if you do believe such a thing (which is surely doubtful given the reliance of most modern conceptions of human dignity on widely shared intuitions about autonomy and consent), it is hard to believe that you will be willing to say this in public (inasmuch as it means you lose the argument before you begin, since few people are foolish enough to affirm a belief in elitist authoritarianism even if they share it).
The options for the would be elitist are either to agree with the idea that people should have a say in the public decisions that affect them (but then to direct the debate as quickly as possible onto actually fraught questions of how specific democratic struggles and institutional experiments to implement this idea in history should play out), or to make some conspicuously qualified claim for elitism in certain constrained circumstances (parents for offspring, advocates for clients, experts for general stakeholders on difficult questions directly connected to their expertise, and so on), although one still does find conservatives occasionally stumbling clumsily into versions of the more generally elitist claim that some people should make decisions affecting others for them (because some minority or other is the "natural constituency" of decision due to birth, money, position, education, merit, professional qualification, and so on and so on), which they are usually quick to disavow or explain away when this attitude is exposed to public scrutiny.
Except in highly qualified and constrained cases (I mentioned a few obvious ones above) those who claim to represent such natural constituencies will tend to be exposed eventually and rather hilariously as self-serving and dangerously delusive. Meanwhile the arguments that tend to provide the rationale for elitism (the masses are too ignorant, subjective, intemperate, greedy, passionate in some generalized way that the valorized elites in question are not, blah blah blah) tend to disqualify the exemplars of the so-called elites from the position of legitimate decision making exactly as readily as they would everyday people upon closer scrutiny in any case.