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Role and Impact of the Pressure Groups

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‘Pressure groups in the USA promote democracy and widen opportunity.’ Discuss

The main functions of pressure groups are to represent, to offer opportunities for participation and to provide an additional check on the government, hence the promotion of democracy is in their nature. Though in the US their functions can in fact limit opportunity by promoting the elites’ due to the large influence of select groups through the use of professional lobbyists; the excessive power of those in iron triangles and the corrupt avoidance of regulation legislation. Thus, despite their representation of minorities, promotion of mass participation and protection of citizens constitutional rights they fail to produce an overall democratic effect.

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It can be argued that pressure groups promote democracy due to the fact that the provide citizens with chances to participate in the political process. AARP, a significant US pressure group promoting the aims of the elderly, have 38million members. By joining AARP, the 38million people have become involved in the political process by supporting a group, as the representative body has such a significant number of people it suggests that the group has widened the opportunity for involvement broadly and are representing the views of a wide range of people. Although, it cannot be assumed that the members have joined to participate in politics and take active measures to support the group or if they have merely joined for the material benefits of the pressure groups such as their pharmaceuticals discounts, though joining a pressure group can be argued to count as participation. Thus, suggesting that pressure groups do widen opportunity and promote democracy.

Furthermore, pressure groups have promoted the rights of smaller groups with in society, widening opportunity to social and political groups that may otherwise have be unrepresented by the ‘umbrella parties’. The ACLU promote the rights of various groups, in recent years they have successfully defended gay and lesbian rights through supreme court cases, such as Oberfell v Hodges 2015. This is further supported by the fact that they have taken on the case of President Trumps Muslim Travel Ban 2017, the case illustrates the lack of representation of minority groups by the mainstream political parties as the Republican president passed an executive order which discriminated against people from Muslim majority countries, as the case has been taken up by the ACLU the group has extended the representation to cover the minority group. Hence illustrating that pressure groups advance the democratic function of politics in the US. It can be argued that by promoting the rights of minorities pressure groups are restricting the influence of the majorities, this limits the extent to which pressure groups can be argued to widen opportunity

Additionally, pressure groups can be argued to protect democracy via their defending of the constitutional rights. The NRA has been formed for the purpose of defending the American public’s 2nd amendment rights to bare arms. The group have protected rights by blocking prospective gun legislation proposed by president Obama in 2013. By defending the bill of rights pressure groups are ensuring that the federal government doesn’t become tyrannical and act in a way that is unconstitutional although some oppose them overall the groups defending the constitution tend to have success. Though, there are also pressure groups that oppose the constitutional rights such as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, yet they are still democratic as the opposing groups provide the opportunity for participation, as more viewpoints are being represented. Despite their opposition of democratic rights can be argued to be undemocratic the competition and defending of rights does extend democracy and broaden opportunity.

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On the other hand, it can be argued that pressure groups have infringed democracy and limited opportunity through their use of campaign methods only accessible to a few elite groups. In recent years there had been a growth in the number of pressure groups using lobbyists, these are expensive and thus can be viewed as undemocratic as only the richest can afford them. In 2016 3.12 billion was spent on just 11,000 lobbyists, this illustrates the expensiveness of lobbyists. Thus, as the use of pressure groups is giving high level of influence to richer pressure groups whilst limiting the influence of others, hence restricting the opportunity.

Pressure groups can also be argued to have limited influence and democracy due to formation of iron triangles. Iron triangles are three way mutually beneficial relationships that form between pressure groups, congressional committees and executive departments, in which they assist each other in their political aims. An example of an iron triangle is AIPAC, the congressional committee on foreign affairs and the defence department, AIPAC has used this relationship to gain their policy aims as in the 2017 budget there was 1.3 billion given to Israel for defence. The Iron triangle relations although giving influence can be seen as undemocratic as many groups are unable to form such relationships and strong relations between small groups denies influence to the wider public, thus limiting opportunity to the elite few.

Another reason for which pressure groups can be viewed as undemocratic is that they have gotten around regulations. In recent years, the federal government have attempted to make pressure group activity more transparent and democratic through regulation, but pressure groups have continued to find loopholes in the regulation. For example, the 2007 Honest Leadership and Open Government act introduced under Bush was ineffective, which meant that Barrack Obama had to introduce executive order 13490 in an attempt to further regulate pressure groups lobbying activity by extending the classification of a gift and the taking the time limit on leaving a federal government position before lobbying that office to two years. Though this regulation can be considered to have been undermined by pressure groups as president Trump called for the government to “drain the swamp” in reference to lobbyist activity. This avoidance of regulation can be considered undemocratic as it is acting outside the frames of the law and directly acting against the government. Thus, the activity of pressure groups can be considered to be undemocratic.

In conclusion, though pressure groups do represent minority groups and extend influence over the government, some pressure groups act undemocratically concentrating significant power in the hands of few elite groups meaning that pressure groups cannot be considered democratic. The illegal avoidance of regulation, along with the significant influence of rich groups through lobbyists and iron triangle relationship limits the extent to which pressure groups can be considered democratic.

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Role and Impact Of The Pressure Groups. (2019, September 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 19, 2021, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/role-and-impact-of-the-pressure-groups/
“Role and Impact Of The Pressure Groups.” GradesFixer, 13 Sept. 2019, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/role-and-impact-of-the-pressure-groups/
Role and Impact Of The Pressure Groups. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/role-and-impact-of-the-pressure-groups/> [Accessed 19 Apr. 2021].
Role and Impact Of The Pressure Groups [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Sept 13 [cited 2021 Apr 19]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/role-and-impact-of-the-pressure-groups/
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