Chapter 21 B - Political Interest Groups Chapter 21 Part B...

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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: 1. Interest groups do not run candidates for public office (though they may endorse candidates); political parties, not interest groups, nominate candidates in partisan elections. 2. 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 majority interest. 4. 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 Federalist #10 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
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1 world has the principle of association been more successfully used or applied to a greater multitude of objectives than in America.” Tocqueville was amazed at the degree to which Americans formed groups to solve civil problems, establish social relationships, and speak for their economic or political interests. Twentieth century American social scientists have debated the elitist and pluralist nature of our government. Elite theory holds that power is concentrated in the hands of a few people or group with common economic and political interests. Pluralism, by contrast, argues that many conflicting groups have access to government officials and compete with one another to influence public policy. Which of these two theories do you believe closely describes the reality of Texas government and politics and why? Of course, when Americans join interest groups, they are
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Chapter 21 B - Political Interest Groups Chapter 21 Part B...

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