US pressures groups are undemocratic, discuss

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Francesca Cifaldi

US Pressure Groups are Undemocratic, Discuss

A pressure group is an organised interest group in which members hold similar beliefs and actively pursue ways to influence government. Unlike political parties, which seek to win control of government, pressure groups are principally interested in influencing those who determine policy. Pressure groups in the US operate at all levels of government be it federal, state and local and seek to bring their influence to bear on all three branches of government.

There are wide ranges of views amongst the pressure groups that operate in the US. Many tend to hold firm beliefs that they are somewhat effective in disabling political dominance of all three branches of government. Others however, see them as adding to the splintering and atomisation of US society, employing different techniques that make them largely undemocratic.

Nevertheless, pressure groups, whether in the US or the UK are regarded as having important implications for a modern democracy.  The arguments in favour of them tend to follow the functions they may usefully perform. Though them, citizens can participate in the political process between elections. Groups such as the National Organisation for Women (NOW) or the National Rifle Associations, despite holding single issue, still provide opportunities for ordinary people to participate in decision making. Without such group’s existence, democracy would be out the window as far as some are concerned.

They are also an important link between the public and the politician, through pressure groups, citizens can have their views represented and their grievances articulated. As well as offering opportunities for minority views to be represented that would normally be ignored by the major political parties. Interest groups supporting those without representation have certainly had their successes; pressure groups can have a major impact on issues. The NAACP used its money and professional expertise to bring cases to court for people who could not otherwise afford it.

They too are able to enhance public education. Many suggest that they educate the public opinion, ensuring everyone is conscious of the dangers if the government does not deal issues of importance and the effects of decisions made by the governments too. For example, membership pressure groups such as think tanks have been particularly important in the US. They conduct research; publish reports, all to benefit the people at large. They attempt to bring together different parts of US society, to work together to achieve a common interest by providing useful information at the policy formulation stage.

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Furthermore, they are able to scrutinise and hold government to account in the implementation of policies, to try to ensure that promises are fulfilled, policies are delivered and regulations enforced. Indeed in legal terms, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured people (NAACP) certainly proved influential in securing the success of the Brown V. Board of Education of Topeka decision. They managed to make it clear of all the inequalities that existed, that led to affirmative action by the ruling of the Supreme Court. As result, people claim that pressure groups are not merely there to cause injustice but ...

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