Interest groups have played a major role in the formation of the US political scene for a long time. In my opinion, their existence is integral to American democracy because they increase citizens’ involvement in politics. While political parties’ programs can often be too complicated and ambiguous, as they have to cover multiple topics, political groups, such as NRA or AARP, target specific issues. Hence, someone, who does not necessarily associate with Democrats or Republicans, but supports particular ideas and concepts, can join interest groups representing his beliefs. Overall, these groups contribute to the diversity of the political system in the US.
Interest groups are often criticized for serving the interests of the elites. It is also not uncommon to hear an opinion that they have too much power. In fact, the research shows that the success rates of interest groups vary significantly and depend on the presence of organized opposition (Bianco and Canon, 2019). Business lobbyists win only in 40% of the cases or less when opposed by civil groups or the government, while 90% of their initiatives succeed when there is no opposition (Bianco and Canon, 2019, p. 367). The example of the student federal loans initiative, which passed despite strong opposition from business interest groups, shows that public opinion can largely neutralize the adverse effects of lobbying.
I am not currently involved in any interest groups, but I would consider joining the Sierra Club. While they have made several questionable decisions in the past, I respect their stance on environmental issues. I believe that the government has to focus on fighting global warming and promoting sustainable energy sources. Joining the Sierra Club would allow me to support important initiatives, such as the Green New Deal directly.
Bianco, W. T., & Canon, D. T. (2019). American politics today (sixth edition). W. W. Norton & Company.