POLSC101 Chapter 11 Status of Interest Groups in America Essay

Chapter 11 Essay–Groups and Interests

It is clear that interest groups are a significant force within American politics. There are thousands of interest groups of almost every political perspective and position at the national, state and local levels. At the same time, it can be argued that interest groups–the “special interests” have too much influence in America, that these groups, such as AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) and the National Rifle Association (NRA) (just to mention two) more often than not are able to set the national agenda on issues of public concern (and specific concern to these particular groups), stronlgy influence the debate and the final results as they move through Congress toward become the law (The same argument can be applied to state and local governments as well although most public interest is focused on the national level).

Evaluate the status of interest groups in America. Should special interest groups be more or less regulated or is the current situation appropriate and acceptable? Why have there been a increase in interest groups in the United States? What have been the effects of this fact on the political process? What have been the effects of interest groups on the two major political parties, the Democrats and Republicans, in both national and state elections? Can you offer any current illustrations of how interest groups have and are influencing the making and implementation of public policy (laws) in the United States?

NOTE: Special interest groups and interest groups are two ways to describe exactly the same organizations that attempt to influence the decisions of government.

Chapter 11 explores the role of interest groups in American politics. This is especially interesting and important in a presidential election year. Groups represent the broad spectrum of economic, social, cultural, religious and political perspectives. Indeed, interest groups are advocates of the varied ideas and proposals that are part of the dialogue of American political and governmental action. This ranges from taxes, deficits, health care (Affordable Care Act), immigration, defense policy and foreign affairs.

An interest group is any group that advocates a particular point of view to the decision makers in government, at the national, state and local level. Some groups are better known, have large memberships and raise significant amounts of money. Their representatives known as lobbyists are the individuals who express the views of the group to the Congress, President, governors, state legislators and local officials as well as the general public.

The Chapter begins with a good definition of interest groups and the theory of pluralism on page 435. On pages 436 and 427, the chapter reviews the variety of interest groups including business, labor unions, professional associations (doctors, lawyers, teachers, for example) and agricultural groups (and many others). The chapter continues with a discussion of the strategies utilized by interest groups including lobbying and developing access to people in government. Another strategy is to gain support for the group’s agenda as discussed beginning on page 442. Be sure to review the role of political action committees (PACs) in this process beginning on page 459. There is a useful presentation on page 459 regarding PACs and their ability to raise money on behalf of their particular group’s point of view.