There are various reasons why corporate special interest groups have worked to enhance a strong influence on the American political process. This essay outlines the three major reasons why interest groups have the upper hand in the political process in contemporary American society. These are organized bodies of individuals sharing the same goals and aspirations and through their strength try to influence policies irrespective of who is in power.
This mechanism is used by individuals in a group set-up through which articulate views, needs and ideologies to be heard by the society. Most of them are politically passive, but influence public policies (Bardes & Shelley, 2012). Some of them are said to be professional bodies, but their voices are listened to by elected people. More often than not, citizens have a way of identifying with such groups, which focus on their basic concerns thus making it possible for collective bargains to be effective (Tolleson, 2005).
To begin with, both the formal and informal American structures are fertile grounds for interest groups due to the old traditions. The United States political party’s system has weakness that allows and encourages corporate interest groups’ influence to thrive. This is due to the existing separation of power between the executive and the legislative arms of the government (Tolleson, 2005). This is in contrast with parliamentary systems where a prime minister’s hold to office depends on the majority vote hence giving them upper hand in policy making.
There are various reasons why these groups voluntarily come together and in this context; one is to belong to the political outfit of the moment, which they feel their interests are catered for. Secondly, most of them are not even politically active, but in the long run tend to influence policy makers’ decisions. None of them transforms to political outfit though their activities behind the scenes filter to the limelight when political campaigns kick off in the US (Bardes & Shelley, 2012).
The presidential and congressional elections in the US are politically separate irrespective of whether or not they are held at the same time. Individual legislators look for winning formulae in their respective districts through formation of coalitions, which assemble the most popular candidates, persons who can articulate their needs to the larger American society. Since the Second World War, Congress and the presidency have been controlling opposing parties most of the time (Bardes & Shelley, 2012). As a result, neither the Democrats nor Republicans wield the full mandate of controlling their party presidential electoral platforms.
This weak party loyalty gives the corporate interest groups a chance to influence the system through financial support and when their candidates win, they are intimately in making policies. The term in power becomes the payback time for those who supported certain candidates. Given that once a politician always a politician, diverting from the group after being elected becomes almost impossible since the cycle and vote seeking takes only four years.
Moreover, the US political power structure allows interest groups to decentralize political powers to individual states under the federal system. This leads to lack of party discipline making them weaker while the grass root special interest groups become more powerful spreading across the fifty states. When these groups are let loose, eventually it weakens the political systems thus taking control of decision making through proxies; the politician.
On the other hand, the independence of the American judiciary empowers interest groups by not having clear cut ways to tame their influences. The groups usually take advantage of such loopholes and litigation to achieve policy interests they cannot naturally gain through legislative means. If the laws were amended, the scenario would turn against the groups making them less powerful than they are.
Last but not least, the immense and unlimited freedom of press, speech and association vested on the American citizenry gets transferred to these groupings and their point of view is seen as the law. Some of the groups might be termed as radical a fact, which is overshadowed by the powers they are perceived to possess (Tolleson, 2005). The centralization of the media after the Second World War tried to give the groups lesser exposure. The media focus initially was on labor unions due to the huge following they then commanded.
The open and unlimited access to the internet has changed existing structures thus empowering the groups even more. The American freedom of speech has been taken to a higher level due to the increased opportunities to express existing problems in society. The internet has been taken over by such groups to influence public policies, which have turned out to be the bait towards the formation of more complex and stronger groupings.
It is important to note that originally interest groups were basically agricultural. Since the number of farmers in the US has declined over the years, business people have taken over as they control most of the American economy. This has been strengthened by the emergence of professional associations who possess bigger bargaining powers in modern society (Bardes & Shelley, 2012).
Money is also a huge contributor to the thriving influence of these groups; this though stems from the pursuit of the American dream. Through membership fees and voluntary contributions, the immense financial strength is usually translated into funding most of the political campaigns. This coupled with passing of information through the internet; decisions are made fast taping on large populations with online access (Tolleson, 2005).
Therefore, it is justifiable to conclude that it is healthy for any democratic society to give its citizenry the freedom to seek alternative means to mobilize resources when they perceive individual violation of their rights and interests by the political elite. The most important resources given to the American citizens are the voting ability, freedom of speech, assembly and a befitting judiciary in modern day political process.