Seminar Paper, 2008, 19 Pages
2. Historical Roots of the Development of Interest Groups
3. Conditions and Tendencies Leading to Plurality
4. The Early 20th Century: The First Era of Organization
4.1 Four distinctive Examples of the Founding & the Development of Interest Groups
4.1.1 The U.S. Chamber of Commerce
4.1.2 The American Farm Bureau Federation
4.1.3 The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
4.1.4 The National League of Cities
5. The 1960’s and 70’s: The Rise of Initiatives and Interest Groups
5.1 The Emergence of Public Interest Groups
5.2 The Development of Political Action Committees (PACs)
Whether one regards the upcoming presidential elections in 2008 or any congressional election in the recent past, it is almost impossible to neglect the importance and influence of the organized interest in the political system of the United States. Both economic groups such as business groups, labor unions, the farmers and professional groups and non-economic groups like single and public interest groups, ethnic and idealistic groups or the intergovernmental lobby play an essential role in the political process. For instance, lobbying organizations play an essential role for the candidates in their election campaigns. They contribute a potential source of financial support. In order to persuade the candidates of representing their particular interest, they distribute huge amounts of money to their chosen candidate or party.
This paper approaches the historical development of lobbying in the history of the United States and investigates how its deep embedding into American politics was made possible. Making this more clearly, the evolvements is divided into four main eras: The historical roots of the development of interest groups; conditions and tendencies leading to plurality; the early 20th century: The first era of organization and the 1960’s and 70’s: The rise of initiatives and interest groups.
Explaining their development, it is on the one hand essential to note down the basic conditions that served as a fundament and helped to create a unique political situation in which active participation by organized interest was realizable. This can most usefully be approached by examining some of the most prominent historical documents in U.S. history. On the other hand, the implementation of this political participation and its change throughout the history has to be analyzed. Also, it needs to be approached how interest groups came into being by referring to the several types of organizations and the founding of particular groups as representative examples for the categories they belong to is going to be presented, as well.
If one observes these developments from a European point of view, they become even more unique and special. Although a couple of basic historical roots for the spawn of lobbying in the United States lay in European history and interest groups can be found in Europe as well, their role has never been that influential as it is in U.S. politics. Therefore, it is helpful to firstly find the historical roots and how they affected the United States which was about to come into being.
As a starting point, it is useful to have a look at the early developments in the time before the first European settlers came to North America. In the absolutist European societies, people formed groups in order to request public demands in front of the king. These requests were called petitions (Beyme 1974: 21). Although the heads of the states did not approach them, the petitions have been the first forms of organized interest which were trying to influence politics in the pre-industrial ages. Referring to Lösche and Loeffelholz (2004: 353), the development of the United States lacks these feudal types of organization. Even later forms such as guilds consistently can not be found in the early U.S. history. Consequently, the Founding Fathers of the United States had already taken the idea of plurality into consideration but did not invent these political theories. For example, the manner of how plurality is embedded in the U.S. Constitution can to a small extent be traced back to these early European models.
Even the fight for the American independence during the 1770’s was shaped by the influence of interest groups. “During the 1770’s many groups arose to agitate for American independence.” (Wilson, DiIulio 1990: 223). Hence, even before the United States was an independent country, plurality was in a particular way included in the political affairs.
Approaching the development of interest groups, one has to consider the different historical landmark documents. Besides the U.S. Constitution, the idea of plurality is expressed in the Federalist Papers by James Madison. Paper No. 51 directly approaches social disparities. Madison takes different classes of citizens as a foundation and already predicts the conflict between majority and minority opinion. As a method for a solution, he proposes a particularly fragmented political order. Madison explicitly expresses the multiplicity of interest and also refers to the term faction in order to describe a united group of citizens (Beyme 1974: 22) which later was defined as an interest group. As Wersich (1996: 118) points out, this early political ideology of plurality was regarded as conditional and mandatory for the political development of the United States. The idea was that the more subdivided active groups would exist in society, the higher should be the security from a government ignoring the majorities will (Wersich 1996: 119). On the other hand, the Founding Fathers agreed that the new republic had to ban particular interests getting illegal sovereignty. Continuing with the reference to the Federalist Papers, the political parties were regarded in a critical way but the factions should have work as the political voice of the citizens (Wersich 1996: 119). The extract of the 10th article of the Federalist Papers was one factor which led to the highly ideological acceptance of pluralism in the American society (Jäger, Welz 1995: 297). Consequently, the ideology of pluralism is deeply embedded in the traditional sense of “Americanism” (Jäger, Welz 1995: 297). The Federalist Papers can be regarded as a keystone for a foundation in the development of interest groups and the main points of the article 51 can still be regarded as valid for current political issues.
Concerning the U.S. constitution, one has to refer to the first principle that consistently can be found throughout the whole text - popular sovereignty. The Founding Fathers saw interest groups as a consequence of the development of this popular sovereignty. Therefore, the organized interest was supposed to function as a basic instrument of a free society (Mewes 1990: 118-19). The amount, in which particular interests could influence politics and could shape the whole country, was neglected by the federalists (Mewes 1990: 119). But the fact that a federal system based on the separation of powers directly invites people to political participation must have been clear (Mewes 1990: 119).
Social pluralism was also important due to other concerns. As the Federalists thought, pluralism was considered a utility for freedom in such a huge federal country (Jäger, Welz 1995: 297). The result directly expresses the idea of the influence of the governed. Besides the security of the freedom of speech and other rights, the first amendment directly contains the idea of the influence of the governed. It is said that “Congress shall make no law (…) abridging (…) the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (U.S. Const. Amendment I). Referring to Charles Beard and others, Beyme (1974: 22) also points out that the American Constitution itself was created as a kind of compromise between large interest groups.
The starting point in the history of lobbyism can be seen in the Tariff Act of 1789 trough which the lobby tried to influence the congress in the legislation during the process of passing the law (Beyme 1974: 22). Despite this fact and a development of some sort of lobbyism in Europe, the term lobbying did not emerge in the U.S. until the 1820’s (Patrick et al. 2001: 380). Due to its original meaning “Lobbyists often work the lobbies and corridors surrounding the House and
Senate chamber, intercepting members and arguing their client’s case.”
As the above mentioned case of the Tariff Act of 1789 already implies, the first reason that lead people to the try of influencing the federal government was economically driven (Mewes 1990: 120). On the one hand, during the early stages of the industrialization, the interests of the industrial sector were powerful (Mewes 1990: 120). However, the industrialization resulted in creating large amounts of economical underdogs. Consequently, the two main parties mainly orientated and dedicated themselves to either side. The Republican Party turned to the economical and social successors while the Democratic Party concentrated more on people who needed economical and social security, at least since the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt (Mewes 1990: 120). Nevertheless, the majority coalition of the Democratic Party was neither a typically European socialist party nor a strictly organized membership party.
Significantly, the political parties of the nineteenth century directly reacted to the particular interests of their voters (Jäger, Welz 1995: 299). Regardless, how sensitive the parties behaved, the political situation led to the development of spontaneous and individual interest groups and protest movements without any belonging to the two established parties, especially in times of economical and social change (Mewes 1990: 120). Besides this time of revolutionary change, the reason for this was the lack of “tightly organized membership parties” which was mentioned above (Mewes 1990: 120).
According to Beyme (1974: 22), the evolvement of the organized interest can be seen in the founding of the Philadelphia Society for the promotion of the national industry in 1820. “Consisting of the leading citizens of Philadelphia” (Hagerty 1908: n.p.) and led by Alexander Hamilton, the society was able to influence executive decisions in a major way (Beyme 1974: 22).
In the following years, during the 1830’s and 1840’s, many religious associations were founded. Also, the antislavery movement began (Wilson 2004: 223). This particular development gets a further approach in chapter 5 of this paper.
Referring to Jäger and Welz (1995: 299), during the nineteenth century, the United States did not have any need for lasting and organized economical associations. The relatively casual application of governmental control and regulations and a lack of a direct governmental influence in shaping the process of industrialization explain the missing need for economical organizations (Jäger, Welz 1995: 299). Also, the already mentioned focus of the parties on the interests of potential voters gives an additional reason for the non-existing interest groups until the middle of the nineteenth century and their comparably late development in the U.S.
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