Evaluate the view that US pressure groups are now far more powerful than political parties in the US political process. (30 marks)

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  • PGs more powerful than political parties
    • PGs more powerful in decision-making
      • parties are weak in Congress & executive
        • June 2015 most House Dems voted against Obama's TAA so it lost 302 -126
      • PGs can lobby politicians directly to gain support
      • PGs able to create 'iron triangles'
      • undermines representative democracy as officials not making decisions to benefit electorate
      • reduces respect for and authority of govt.
    • PGs are more powerful in elections
      • parties restricted by FECA & BCRA
      • PGs can easily set up PACs and Super PACs
      • undermines pluralist democracy & promotes elitism as views of wealthy better represented
      • fewer ordinary people standing for election as can't afford it
      • could lead to apathy & fall in participation
    • PGs have more supporters
      • party identification is low
        • In 2014, 39% American voters identified as Independents, 32% as Democrats and 23% as Republicans
      • PG membership is high
        • AARP has over 40 million members
      • PGs have greater mandate & legitimacy
      • allows PGs to raise more funds
    • however, not all PGs are powerful
      • Occupy Wall Street Movement (since 2011) largely unsuccessful due to lack of leadership & organisation
      • American Dehydrated Onion & Garlic Association
        • spent $300,000 annually on lobbying but finished in 2012 with $20,000 on lobbying
      • undermine pluralist democracy as less powerful PGs less represented
      • shows PGs rely on different factors to become powerful
      • but, PGs with power are more powerful than parties
    • parties are the ones that make decisions
      • PGs need parties to make the decisions they want
        • Civil Rights Movement needed Dems. to pass Civil Rights Act 1964 & Voting Rights Act 1965
      • if PGs are ignored by parties they cannot make the changes they want
        • pro-gun control movements e.g. 'Million Mom March' 2000 unsuccessful
      • parties only listen to PGs when it suits them so appear in control
      • upholds representative democracy as elected officials making decisions
      • but, PGs have such influence over decisions that they can de facto make decisions
    • parties more powerful because they're permanent
      • PGs come and go suggesting they're not influential enough to remain permanent
      • GOP & Dems have been winning elections since the 1800s
      • allows parties to provide stability & continuity to political system
      • shows PGs may be powerful in the short term the way 3rd parties are
      • but, PGs more powerful than parties even if their power is only temporary
      • some PGs have been around a long time
        • NRA founded 1871

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