By Harmon Zeigler Thomas R. Dye

Whereas such a lot American politics texts handle American politics from a pluralist standpoint, THE IRONY OF DEMOCRACY: AN unusual advent TO AMERICAN POLITICS, Fourteenth variation, techniques the topic by means of addressing the subject matter of elitism and contrasting it with democratic idea and glossy pluralist thought. Its key query is, "How democratic is American society?"

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In Western democracies, elites have multiple institutional bases of power. Not all power is lodged in government, nor is all power derived from wealth. Democracies legitimize the existence of opposition parties and of organized interest groups. S. democracy. S. government, relatively autonomous multiple elites have emerged—in Congress, in the judiciary, in the executive, and even within the executive, in a variety of bureaucratic domains. But it is really the power and autonomy of nongovernmental elites—media, corporate, financial, union, legal, civic, interest groups, and so on—and their recognized legitimacy that distinguishes the elite structures of democratic nations from those of totalitarian states.

Group membership does not ensure effective individual participation in decision making. Rarely do corporations, unions, armies, churches, governmental bureaucracies, or professional associations have any internal democratic mechanisms. They are usually run by a small elite of officers and activists. The pluralists offer no evidence that the giant organizations and institutions in American life really represent the views or interests of their individual members. Elite theory suggests that accommodation and compromise among leadership groups is the prevailing style of decision making, not competition and conflict.

Constitution has no provision for national referenda. It was not until 100 years after the Constitution was written that political support developed in some states for more direct involvement of citizens in policy making. At the beginning of the twentieth century, populists in the farm states of the Midwest and the mining states of the West introduced the initiative and referendum. Today only voters in about half the states can express their frustrations with elite governance directly. The initiative is a device whereby a specific number or percentage of voters, through the use of a petition, may have a proposed state constitutional amendment or a state law placed on the ballot for adoption or rejection by the electorate of a state.

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