Interest groups play an important role in all democratic systems of government. An interest group is a group of persons organized to seek public policy influence, usually by trying to influence people in government. These interest groups differ considerably in many ways such as in age, size, sex, and ways of their expression. Most of them focus on issues related to political public policy. Strong groups have the ability to influence elections and public policy choices. They persuade the public and other non-governmental organizations to join them and support their policies. (Neilson1998)
Texas is one of the states in America with the strongest political and interest groups. These interest groups are usually created so as to make demands to the government. Biased power in Texas is spread among a broad range of competing groups and interests. This struggle serves to reduce authority of any one group on the institutions of power process. The power of these parties and interest groups depends on the size, resources, cohesiveness, leadership and techniques. Political parties influence voting patterns by the choice of their nomination to officeholders. The parties and interest groups have direct control of the person to run under their party The political parties are very vital in enhancing democracy.
They simplify voting choices, organize and unify electorate and direct them on the best candidate to rally behind. Interest groups are very effective in lobbying. They are able to organize into groups which are actively involved in the electoral process. They are able to communicate directly to the public through public rallies, campaigns through mass media and through public gatherings. Lobby groups are aimed at putting pressure on public officers and legislators on the policies they make (Neilson 1998)
Impacts of political or interest groups in Texas Elections
Political parties and interest groups in Texas are relatively powerful actors in the political process. Political power in Texas is dependent on the resources available to parties and interest groups actively engaged in the political systems. Interest groups in Texas have a very great influence on Texas politics especially their contributions to choosing candidates and the party in which these candidates run. The influence of the parties and interest groups depends on the resources and the ability to fund lobbyists.
They are also influenced by the way they relate to politics and with the government of the day. Texas used to have one prominent political party system which was highly dominated by Democratic Party. The electoral politics were dominated by factions and individuals who were well connected to the party. This system was based on systematic exclusion of citizens through discriminatory election laws. This business brought about development of powerful interest groups that pushed for creation of more political parties.
Texas now has two major political parties; they are Democratic and Republican parties.(Congleton1986)Texas political environment is rapidly changing; there is great mobilization of minorities and growth of political interest groups. These institutions have brought a lot of political change which results in reducing powers of the dominant groups and directing policies to the interest of the lower socioeconomic groups. The most influential interest groups in Texas are the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC).These interest groups are able to mobilize political influence to their favor.
Another powerful interest group is the Religious Right group. These groups through their mobilization abilities are able to influence policymaking in Texas. They proved to be very influential in the right-wing takeover of leadership positions in the Texas Republican Party in 1994 elections.(Congleton1986)Texas has numerous political interest groups and activists, although some interest groups are well endowed with resources than others, there is healthy competition and interactions that are required for a healthy democratic society. Some interest groups in Texas argue that political power is concentrated on few individuals who get their resources from powerful institutional base.
These institutions are joined together by strong political relationships, and admission to their leadership position is restricted to minority few. These few individuals who try to monopolize political powers are usually wealthy males from the higher socioeconomic groups. Today, there is stiff competition from the interest groups associated with lower socioeconomic groups. (Benson, Rasmussen and Kim 1998)
These interest groups within political parties do sometimes compete for resources and attention. Sometimes they influence the decision the party takes in choosing who to run on their ticket. A good example is in year 2000 general elections where many Texan environmentalists in Democratic party voted for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader arguing that Al Gore was not ‘’green enough’’ and hence could not address the environmental problems the group wanted to be addressed.(Benson, Rasmussen $ Kim 1998)Political parties sometimes bring out divisions in the society as members of a community may be affiliated to different parties, and each would compete to promote the interest of their party.
However, Texan parties backed by interest groups, try to unite different groups within the electorate by building coalitions to win elections. Parties perform roles that are important for the operations of democracy, coordination and functioning of the political system. Parties provide the electorate to participate at all levels of the political system. They also engage their followers in a continuing political dialogue by helping to articulate day to day issues affecting them.. (Becker1983)
Interest groups do not openly sponsor their own members to be elected into public offices, but they collaborate with political parties they purport to support, to put their own members into appointed public office. Voter turnout in Texas in most elections has been low despite the withdrawal of the discriminatory election laws, increased number of voting days and easy voter registration. This is because hitherto, election systems have a tendency to contain minority representation which has continued to generate controversy. This has however remained a great challenge to interest groups, but with continued campaigns and public awareness the vice is slowly being contained. (Becker1983)
In conclusion, Interest groups and political parties are intensely involved in electoral process. They have actively succeeded in shaping the politics of Texas. They have increased the rate of voters’ turnout and increased participation of the minority in the electoral process. This has greatly influenced the choice of those elected to hold public offices. (Becker1983)
Becker, G. S. (1983) “A Theory of Competition Among Pressure Groups for Political Influence,”.
Congleton, R. D. (1986) “Rent-Seeking Aspects of Political Advertising,” Public Choice 49: 249-265.Quarterly Journal of Economics 98, 371-399.
Becker, G. S. (1968) “Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach,” Journal of Political Economy 76:169-216.
Benson, B. L. ; Rasmussen, D. W. and Kim, I. (1998) “Deterrence and Public Policy: Trade-offs in the Allocation of Police,” International Review of Law and Economics 18: 77-100.
Benson, B.L., Kim, I., and Rasmussen, D.W. (1994) “Estimating Deterrence Effects,” Southern Economic Journal 61:161-168.
Neilson, W. S. (1998) “Optimal Punishment Schemes with State-Dependent Preferences,” Economic Inquiry 36: 266-71.