3. There are concerns that the rise in the power of interest groups generally is a threat to American democracy. How can interest groups threaten democracy?
How might they support democracy? What could be done to make the current system more democratic regarding interest groups?
Interest groups participate in virtually every arena of American politics. “[They] are active in many aspects of the electoral process and seek to influence the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government” (Interest Groups at the Dawn of a New Millenium). Connections between interest groups and political parties, government, and other interest groups are myriad and complex. They reflect the interplay of group goals, resources, and structures, as well as the institutional structure of government, the decentralized nature of the parties and the rules regulating interest group activity(American Journal of Political Science). The institutional and political environments in which interest groups operate influence how they organize and how they carry out activities; therefore, they must rely on different resources and use different tactics to try to influence political policy in American government. Although some people perceive interest groups with negative images due to excessive sums spent by groups to influence, interest groups express the best features of democracy; they are both necessary and useful in translating the myriad opinions and interests in the society into representative policy.
Organized interest groups sometimes referred to as special interests or factions, have always played important roles in American politics (Federalist No. 10). Factions weighed heavily on the minds of the Framers of the Constitution. They were a major focus of populist and progressive reformers at the turn of the twentieth century. However, at the dawning of the twenty-first century, individuals and reform groups continue to label organized interest groups as the villains of American politics.
Interest groups are similar “to political parties in that they work together and try to shape the outcome of elections and legislation” (A Theory of Political Parties). Unlike political parties, however, they do not nominate candidates, nor do they normally try to address a wide range of issues. They provide members in the group a sense of identification and belongings. In some cases, they provide opportunities to indirectly participate in politics to voice their opinion in public policy as well as their concerns.
Most interest groups are organized as PACs, lobbies, grassroots groups, or in other form. “They use multifaceted strategies, adapting their tactics to suit new objectives and political circumstances” (Interest Groups at the Dawn of a New Millennium). They also use a variety of techniques to influence decisions made by the federal bureaucracy. Aside from electioneering and litigating, and shaping public opinion through media, the most common strategy is...