Hello. My name is Angie Sykeny, and in this video I’m going to argue that America’s contemporary politics reflect the pluralistic theory of elite power.
Pluralism, in short, means that power lies not in the hands of one dominant person or group, but rather is disbursed among many. This is because each group has a different set of expertise and resources. We can refer to this system as a polyarchy, a term coined by renowned political scientist Robert Dahl in his 1956 book A Preface to Democratic Theory. This is in contrast to a hierarchal system, which is structured like a pyramid where all groups are ranked above or below others. However, even in a polyarchy, we should not conclude that there an elite is completely non-existent. Sociologist Susan Keller believed that there is pyramid structure, yes, but a myriad of pyramids rather than just one.
But what are these said groups and where do they come from? These multiple competing groups are only possible because we live democratic society where citizens have the right to assemble, and to speak freely in opposition to the elite. These rights are solidified in the First Amendment of the constitution and cannot be taken away, even by the elite. Thus, the constitution contributes to a pluralistic system by keeping the powerful in check so that they can never hold all of the power.
Many of these assemblies we can call voluntary or interest groups. A few examples of these types of groups include labor unions, banks, corporations, environmental activists, civil rights activists, and trade associations. These groups work to sway the public for or against certain issues, as well as lobby for political candidates who will represent those views.
Let’s look at some of the most influential interest groups of America today.
The NRA, National Rifle Association, first made its mark when it lobbied for Ronald Reagan as he was running for president. In the 2010 elections, the NRA spent $7.2 million dollars on campaigns which endorsed pro-gun candidates and opposed pro-gun control candidates. Though money is one resource this group employs, it also relies on the passion and support of its 4 million members and strong campaign tactics. The group maintains public exposure through celebrity advocates such as Chuck Norris, Ted Nugent, Whoopi Goldberg, and Michael Moore. The NRA is an example of a group that has enough influence to affect the political landscape. In the 2000 elections, Al Gore lost the election in his home state of Tennessee because of his pro-gun control stance, which the NRA opposed.
Another interest group most prevalent today is AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons. With 38 million members, it is one of the largest groups in Washington today—and one of the wealthiest. In 2010, it spent $22 million lobbying for reforms in health care, Medicare, and social security, as well as supporting Obama. This group influences political policy in that the highest demographic of voters are 45 and...