This is a shift to argument (a), that our democracy is too broken to bother with. If true, (a) really does overthrow my argument. But really? There's no point in running for city council? For county recorder? For the state senate? I don't believe it and I don't think [Shawn] Gude believes it either. I bet he voted in November, and I bet he's prepared to do it again.It's either a telling trick or a willful blindness that causes Will to use voting and running for office interchangeably in his general praise of democracy; it's like asking the wrongfully imprisoned man if he wouldn't have liked to be the judge in his own case. But really, between this little excerpt and elsewhere, where Will accuses "the people"--whomever on earth they are--of passing local statutes and ordinances, what this reveals is a mind that would benefit immensely from spending a couple years on the city hall and zoning board beat. One of the precious libertarian myths that I abandoned when personal experience disabused me of its philosophical attraction is the idea that democracy, if sufficiently local, is somehow better or purer or at least more practical and efficacious than the morass of Washington. This is decidedly not true, as anyone who's ever tried to get a special exemption for the setback requirements for new construction abutting an existing structure on a light commercial zoned property in which the new construction is in a separate zoning district . . . ahem, knows. It suggests a certain, um, abstract understanding of the nature of government, which is often even more spectacularly corrupt locally than in the halls of the congrefs. The idea that the Occupy protesters are undermining some sort of echt popular will by violating city code chapter 470: public places and permitting is so totally unhinged from the actual nature and process of municipal governance that it represents either shameful ignorance or deliberate dishonesty. The popularity of Occupy as measured by opinion polls may rise or fall, but it has precious little to do with its legality.
Meanwhile the persistent invocation of a healthy civic sphere, even with the ironical quotation marks, implies a literalism about the body politic that leaves me slightly aghast.