The Political World of a Small Town: A Mirror Image of American Politics

By Everett Carll Ladd Jr.; Nelson Wikstrom | Go to book overview
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7
West Point's Polyarchy: A Mirror Image of American Politics

Notwithstanding the conservative political culture that structures the political life of West Point, the community has experienced some measure of economic and political change. This chapter initially provides a brief overview of the more visible examples of change in West Point and elaborates upon the forces that have promoted change in the community. This material is followed by a succinct casting of my core argument that in a broad thematic sense the politics of West Point reflect the essential character of American political life. In essence, Robert Dahl's labeling of the American political system as a "polyarchy" applies with equal and specific currency to West Point. 1 Given that polyarchy is not democracy, as Dahl emphatically argues, 2 this chapter concludes with the perspective that we need not be overly concerned with the well-documented deficiencies of the American democratic process, but should be much more concerned with democracy in terms of policy substance, especially as this bears upon the quality of American life and the vitality of the political system.

West Point's government, over the past several years, has adopted a somewhat wider scope and more positive stance on behalf of community betterment. Local political leaders have pursued an aggressive role on behalf of community improvement, including a more determined enforcement of the housing code. This has resulted in the demolition of some of the most dilapidated housing. Streets and sidewalks have been reconstructed in a highly traveled section of the community. New street signs have been erected throughout West Point. Additional recreational areas for various sporting events have been completed. An addition to the high school has been constructed. The municipal building has been substantially renovated, resulting in a much more attractive and efficient facility. Runway and other capital

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