Interest Groups and Political Parties
The “advocacy explosion” in the United States in the 20th century has been caused by the extreme increase in the number of interest groups in the United States. The general public views the increase and the groups themselves as a cancer that has come to the body of American politics and is spreading. The explosion in the number of interest groups and interest group members and finances has had an effect on the decline of the American political party and partisanship, the effect on democracy and the public interest, and the bias that has come with interest group competition.
The advocacy explosion is strongly linked to the decline of the American political party and the role of the political parties in elections. As interest groups have gained more power and had a larger control over politics and political goods the power that is exerted by political parties has dwindled. The power of the interest group has grown larger with the amount of members and the financial rewards that have come with the new members. In elections interest groups do not usually participate directly with the candidate or the election. Berry points out that “Groups often try to leverage their endorsement to obtain support for one of their priorities” (Berry, 53). With interest groups spreading their resources around the actual election can be affected very minimally by the many interest groups that contribute money to the election. However, the candidates who obtain political office through the help of special interest money still owe some sort of loyalty to the interest group regardless of which party wins the election. This loyalty and the promise of more money in the future gives the elected officials a reason to favor the interest groups ideas more than they may their political party’s platform. Berry points out that “The independence of American legislators from their party is aided and abetted by interest groups” (Berry, 49). The party will support a candidate in the election, in the vast majority of cases, regardless of how they vote on most issues. Interest groups have the option of not supporting the candidate or supporting them to a lesser degree. This option allows for the interest group to wield power over the candidate.
Almost the entire point of an interest group is to gain influence over governmental officials and political goods. Steven Schier in his book By Invitation Only points out that interest groups use activation strategies in order to help them accomplish three goals “(1) getting and keeping members, (2) employing grassroots pressure upon officials, and (3) convincing the public of the worthiness of group causes” (Schier, 156). These three methods of activation contribute to the decline of political parties. Getting and keeping members takes money that could be used for political parties and gives it to the interest groups. Although the interest groups give some of the...