Democracy arrived here in the early afternoon on a fleet of gray and silver buses carrying the duly elected members of the 2009 American Idol Tour. This season's top 10 are touring 52 cities after Americans cast 624 million votes. Just the chance of a fleeting glimpse of them had a hundred fans standing in the sweltering heat as they never would for the politicians who babble and bumble and bluff at the Capitol, a two-minute walk from the concert arena.
Is there better proof in our time that the people rule than that these Idols reign? According to Daly, there is, and you can see it in the Idols' humble acknowledgment of their accountability to the People.
[T]he startling volume of votes and their remarkable popularity are not what make these young singers true figures of democracy. What sets them apart from the politicians who infest our state capital is their attitude toward the voters.
This year's winner, Kris Allen, received more votes than both houses of the New York State Legislature combined. His attitude toward his electorate would transform government if our politicians felt the same.
"Being the American Idol, I feel like there is a pressure to live up to a certain standard," he said in a pre-concert chat. "I want to be someone people look up to."
You may have noted a note of irony in my selections from Daly's commentary. Is he really saying anything awful? Maybe New York's senators do deserve an unfavorable comparison to the studiously humble, grateful contest winners, though you might remember the senators saying similar nice things when they're up for election. But we can let Daly have his little joke and still insist that the difference between American Idol and state government is not the difference between "actual democracy" and its absence. Daly has forgotten, presuming that he ever knew, the fundamental definition of democracy -- and it doesn't involve elections. Elections are a function of representative government, what we call around here a republic. Commentators of a certain bent are fond of reminding us that we live in a republic, rather than a democracy, because ours is a representative rather than a direct government. Ours is a democratic republic because the people choose their representatives, though we called ourselves that even when many representatives (e.g. U.S. Senators, presidential electors) weren't chosen in strictly democratic fashion. The New York senate is an institution of representative government, and American Idol is an analogous institution. The singing contest is no more "actual democracy" than state government is, and a besotted Daly, basking in the presence of celebrity for what may be a rare time in his life, has forgotten that the singers are doing no more than practising public relations just as the senators do -- or does he imagine that Espada and his peers actually go about in public sneering at the masses and saying, "We're not answerable to you, mwa-ha-ha-hah!"
Daly's article is wrongheaded from so many angles that I feel justified in nominating him for Idiot of the Week. The floor is open for seconding speeches or further nominations.