17 December 2007
Final Exam Questions
How do political parties and interest groups help to maintain democracy?
Discuss both positive and negative contributions of these organizations on the
political system. Be sure to distinguish between political parties and interest groups
in your response.
Two major factors effecting the government that controls this country today,
political parties and interest groups, have both positive and negative outcomes that
contribute to maintaining a functional democracy. There are different forms of political
parties and different forms of interest groups, but both rely on each other to serve as
representatives of certain ideals of a specific group of people.
An interest group is any group of people under a common idea or belief that
desire to influence or change political decisions or representatives without seeking
election of public office. There are currently over 22,000 nationally recognized interest
groups. Single-issue interest groups, such as the National Abortion and Reproductive
Action League, focus on mainly one issue, while Multi-issue interest groups, on the other
hand, work towards a wider range of topics that fall under a single central theme. All of
these organizations raise new forms of interest that connect people to new identities, for a
democracy cannot exist if people only associate themselves with people of the same race,
sex, or religion. Almost any citizen should be able to find an interest group focusing on
his own concerns. Interest groups play a huge role in democracy, and serve specific
functions in society. They make issues of the citizens known to government officials.
Their main functions are controlling the power of the state, checking and monitoring for
corruption, raising public concern, building new agendas, and educating constituents by
lobbying for access to information. For example, there are anti-corruption laws and
bodies present, but they would not function effectively without the active support and
participation of society. By educating people about their rights and obligations as
democratic citizens, and encouraging people to listen and vote in elections, interest
groups are raising the awareness of general America and promoting participation in
politics. This can help develop citizens’ skills in solving common problems, debating
public issues, and expressing their views.
However, Interest Groups do not always oppose the government. When the
government is more responsive, and therefore more effective and legitimate, people
respect the state, and even if they do not get their way, it promotes positive engagement
in the government. Interest groups have respect for the law, acknowledge the law, and
respect the rights of individuals. They teach tolerance and the accommodation of
pluralism and diversity. Some interest groups are more effective in changing or creating
policies than the government. For example, in the early 1950’s, the National Association