Political Interest Groups
Chapter 21 – Part B
A second channel of political participation in Texas is through interest
groups. Interest groups are “a collection of
people, acting together, to
influence government or public policy.”
Interest groups are different
from political parties in several respects:
Interest groups do not run candidates for public office (though
they may endorse candidates); political parties, not interest
groups, nominate candidates in partisan elections.
Interest groups do not organize the government once the
election is over; parties do.
3. Interest group represent specialized constituencies. These
constituencies may be economic, professional, ideological,
religious, racial, gender, or issue-based. Political parties, by
contrast, represent states and congressional districts and a
whole lot of other interests.
In other words, the interest group
system gives voice to special interests, while parties cater to
Interest groups seek special benefits, subsidies, privileges, and
protections from the government; political parties’ primary goal
is to win election and control government.
Are We a Nation of Joiners?
Interest groups have been a fundamental part of the
American experience. Ever since the Boston Tea Party, which
involved an eighteen-century trade issue between the colonists
and England, Americans have been joining together in
voluntary associations to try to influence the government. In
arguing for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1787,
James Madison wrote in
about the inevitability
and potential danger of “factions” in a democratic society and
argued that the best way to control what he called the “mischief
of factions” was through the proliferation of groups so that no
one group could get hegemony over the other groups. In
observing the American culture in the 1820s, the French
diplomat and traveler, Alexis de Tocqueville, observed that
“Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions,
constantly form associations“ and that “in no country of the