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The Difference between Pluralism and Elitism

As Michael Kinsley (1994) maintains, ˘Children, veterans, senior citizens, oppressed peoples, handicapped persons, small business, taxpayers and students all get their goodies, and the result is a national debt that harms all more than the goodies benefit them÷ (p. 7).

Despite American politics being a combination of the pluralist and elitist approach, the major political parties have positioned themselves on one pole or the other. Democrats often position themselves as pluralists, acting in the general interest, while Republicans are often portrayed as ˘elitist snobs protecting corporate interests÷ (Coulter, 2002, p. 7). During Ronald ReganĂs time in office, the editor of the New York Times argued that Reagan and his backers were elitists ˘making life harder for citizens who were not born rich, white and healthy÷ (Coulter, 2002, p. 7). Despite this charge, Reagan was reelected to a second term in one of the biggest electoral landslides in U.S. history.

One reason why individuals believe American politics must be viewed exclusively through the pluralistic or elitist lens is because more often than not those who favor one approach or the other associated their own ideals with them. As Wasserman (2006) points out, ˘The concepts we adopt as most accurately reflecting political reality are bound also to reflect our own ideals÷ (p. 264). For example, King (1995) argues that for liberals ˘elitist


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