Pluralism and Politics

As I write today’s blog the state of Oregon is still counting ballots for the governor’s race and the candidates are running neck-and-neck in the metaphorical horse race.

Many folks get upset with this, but I take a more pluralistic view. Assume, just for the sake of argument, that the state legislature is also neck-and-neck, cleanly divided along partisan lines.

This indicates that the decision-makers are equally divided, that I argue that this provides a greater opportunity for compromise over important issues.

The theoretical concept called “democratic pluralism” argues that, in situations where partisans and pundits are equally divided, resolutions are more likely to reflect the broader interests of the claims-makers (assuming that the claims-makers are representative of voting publics). It may seem counter-intuitive, but a legislature that is divided equally is potentially more democratic than one with a lopsided majority.

Researchers argue that when claims-makers vie to have their voices heard, they are more likely to gain traction under such circumstances. If an interest group is viewed as distanced from the center, the group is more likely to be disenfranchised and delegitimized.

I argue that’s what occurs when American Indian views and values are poured into the mix of conflicts, and discourse over science certainly divides claims-makers into factions. Unless American Indian views approach a majority or sizable minority, or if they are able to leverage political or economic currency, their positions will be discounted.

It’s unlikely that hard core Western scientists will warm to indigenous perspectives, but I reckon it is likely that American Indians can persuade scientists with less recalcitrant views of the gravitas of indigenous ways of knowing.


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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2 Responses to Pluralism and Politics

  1. Julie Smith says:

    I appreciate your perspective Cindy. Thanks for proposing a sliver lining to the leadership shift in Oregon and across America.


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