Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I don't think I need to rehash the Cosgrove controversy here, because other people have done it better than I could. So I'm only going to comment on Del. Cosgrove's stunned, outraged response.

He's horrified, he says, because some of the emails were less-than-polite and because he's "never been blogged before." He makes it sound like being blogged is some sort of horrible assault: it's like being kicked or stabbed. And while I know this is preaching to the choir, it's really not. "Being blogged" is an awkward synonym for "being discussed." An elected official did something, it was discussed and analyzed by his fellow-citizens, many of them determined they didn't like it, they contacted him to communicate their disapproval, and he changed his mind. What we have here is a perfect example of democracy in action. This is how things are supposed to work. Citizens are supposed to be interested, informed and engaged. They are supposed to convey their wishes to their representatives. Their representatives are supposed to take their feedback into account. This is a feel-good, Mr.-Smith-goes-to-Washington type story. This is a story about how blogs can function as an updated public sphere.

It's too bad that some of the emails were rude. Maybe it's just because I started writing letters through Amnesty International, and they stress that you should always be scrupulously polite, but I tend to think that rude letters are less effective than civil ones. It's fine to vent, but when you're writing to a politician, it's not a good way to get your point across. Still, politics can be a rough-and-tumble business, and I'm not sure why Cosgrove is so worked up about it. Surely he can see why his bill would cause an emotional response in some people.

Cosgrove sounds like a jerk, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. We all screw up occasionally, and maybe he just drafted his bill poorly. What seems damning to me is his response. He has no business serving as an elected official if he's outraged by the effective practice of democracy.

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