Here is one of the Cohens--I can never keep them straight--making one of the requisite, occasional pitches for democracy that are required of major American opinion columnists. Suffice to say that the persistent confusion of an organizational structure with a moral category is the problem here. It gives rise to all sorts of additional weirdness. For instance, because democracy is a categorical moral good, a country like Russia, when its government acts in some manner that some or other Times-sinecured domehead thinks is morally dubious, becomes less democratic. (Alternately, a country like China, when it, whatever, lets someone look at porno on the internet, or loosens travel restrictions, or embraces the stock market, becomes more democratic.) These estimations have very little to do with the procedural features of any country's government. I mean, is Russia really less democratic than the United States? I don't know. Is the United States less corrupt than Afghanistan? By what measure?
Democracy's apologists, like Cohen, do not much care for democracy, as proven by the vapors they get over "partisan shrieking" and "legislative paralysis" and the Friedmanian tumescence that accompanies their slavish dream of a more scientific govenment. (I do not much care for it either, but you won't hear me humming its hosanas.) They are great advocates of abstracted Freedoms and Liberties, failing ever to define what precisely constitutes freedom or liberty, but the actual mechanics of democracy, i.e. what democracy actually is, dismay and dispirit them. They approvingly cite discredited, preposterous claims about the nature of the social compact, the absurd idea that democratic citizens somehow willingly submit to their governors, when of course an American, unless he is very rich (or Jewish!) has no more choice in his citizenship than a Chinese. The exercise of the franchise is emphatically not "the consent of the governed"; it is the participation in a semi-obligatory public ritual, yes, but it's not like you can resign from America. The right to make minor determinations about who is in the government is not the same as the ability to change your government, or to abolish it, and the illusion that you, as a citizen, are party to the social compact is as delusional as some poor schmuck who thinks he's party to the contract someone just put out on his life.
And speaking of gangland hits, there's this gem:
The lingering wars waged partly in democracy’s name in Iraq and Afghanistan hurt its reputation, however moving images of inky-fingered voters gripped by the revolutionary notion that they could decide who governs them. Given the bloody mayhem, it was easy to portray “democracy” as a fig leaf for the West’s bellicose designs and casual hypocrisies.Yo, democracy is "a fig leaf for the West’s bellicose designs and casual hypocrisies."