Chapter Outline

Pluralist and Elitist Views Both Explain the Group Process

  1. The principle of pluralism—group-based politics—dates to James Madison’s concept of “faction.” According to pluralist theory, all interests are and should be free to compete for influence in the United States. The outcome of this competition is supposed to result in compromise and moderation.
  2. The modern group process has an elitist, upper-class bias because the upper class has greater resources to exploit that process.

Interest Groups Represent Different Interests but Have Similar Organizations and Membership

  1. An interest group is a group of people organized to pursue a common interest or interests, through political participation, toward the ultimate goal of getting favorable publicpolicy decisions from government. Interest groups are sometimes referred to as “lobbies.”
  2. Interest groups are different from political parties: Interest groups tend to concern themselves with the policies of government; parties tend to concern themselves with the personnel of government.
  3. There are many diverse interest groups that exist in the United States.
  4. Most interest groups share key organizational components, such as mechanisms for member recruitment, financial and decision-making processes, and agencies that actually carry out group goals.
  5. Interest-group politics in the United States tends to have a pronounced upper-class bias because of the characteristics of interest-group members.
  6. Because of natural disincentives to join interest groups, groups offer material, solidary, and purposive benefits to entice people to join.

The Number of Groups Has Increased in the Last Forty Years

  1. The modern expansion of governmental economic and social programs has contributed to the enormous increase in the number of groups seeking to influence the American political system.
  2. The second factor accounting for the explosion of interest-group activity in recent years was the emergence of a new set of forces in American politics: the New Politics movement. The New Politics movement is made up of upper-middle-class professionals and intellectuals for whom the civil rights and anti–Vietnam War movements of the 1960s were formative experiences.

Interest Groups Use Different Strategies to Gain Influence

  1. Lobbying is an effort by outsiders to influence Congress or government agencies by providing them with information about issues, giving them support, and even threatening them with retaliation.
  2. Access is actual involvement and influence in the decision-making process.
  3. Interest groups often turn to litigation when they lack access or feel they have insufficient influence over the formulation and implementation of public policy.
  4. Going public is a strategy that attempts to mobilize the widest and most favorable climate of opinion.
  5. Interest groups seek to use the electoral process to elect the right legislators in the first place and to ensure that those who are elected will owe them a debt of gratitude for their support. Financial support and campaign activism can be important tools for organized interests.
  6. A political action committee (PAC) is a private group that raises and distributes funds for use in election campaigns.

Interest Groups Both Help and Hurt Democracy

  1. The organization of private interests into groups to advance their own views is a necessary and intrinsic element of the liberty of citizens to pursue their private lives, and to express their views, individually and collectively.
  2. The organization of private interests into groups is biased in favor of the wealthy and the powerful who have superior knowledge, opportunity, and resources with which to organize.