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Campaign Participants and Interest Group Activists: Not So Strange Bedfellows
Unformatted Document Text:  6 These examples highlight the ambivalence surrounding party and group relations in the United States. Parties rely on groups to supply activists, money, and ideas, but at the same time, demands made by groups may hinder reelection, and undercut broad partisan agendas. As a result, many commentators on American political parties have bemoaned the larger role that interest groups have assumed. Some see this as interfering with the “interest aggregation” function of parties which, although crucial for democracy, may be incompatible with the dominance of interest articulating groups. As Steve Schier (2000) argues, partisan mobilization today consists primarily of activating citizens who are highly engaged in politics and tied in some way to groups with a narrow range of interests. By both mobilizing and empowering their members through group involvement, groups may constitute a threat to the crucial integrative role of parties. These concerns about group dominance are legitimate. At the same time, however, the positive role of groups in fostering political participation is also significant and important. Along different lines, there is another important aspect of the relationship between groups and campaign activity that has been ignored particularly in the American context: the effects of campaign activity on interest group involvement. 2 This paper shows that campaign activity, rather than just being a response to citizen and civic group involvement and mobilization, has its own transformative effect on those who get involved subsequently, and that one significant effect is increased and widened involvement in interest groups. In particular, we argue that campaign involvement on behalf of a major party’s general election candidates subsequently yields increased activity in those groups that are important parts of that party’s interest group coalition. Furthermore, if this effect resembles the effects we have found for nomination activity and third party support, the 2 This oversight is likely to be far less in corporatist systems.

Authors: Rapoport, Ronald. and McCann, James.
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6
These examples highlight the ambivalence surrounding party and group relations
in the United States. Parties rely on groups to supply activists, money, and ideas, but at
the same time, demands made by groups may hinder reelection, and undercut broad
partisan agendas. As a result, many commentators on American political parties have
bemoaned the larger role that interest groups have assumed. Some see this as interfering
with the “interest aggregation” function of parties which, although crucial for democracy,
may be incompatible with the dominance of interest articulating groups. As Steve Schier
(2000) argues, partisan mobilization today consists primarily of activating citizens who
are highly engaged in politics and tied in some way to groups with a narrow range of
interests. By both mobilizing and empowering their members through group involvement,
groups may constitute a threat to the crucial integrative role of parties. These concerns
about group dominance are legitimate. At the same time, however, the positive role of
groups in fostering political participation is also significant and important.
Along different lines, there is another important aspect of the relationship between
groups and campaign activity that has been ignored particularly in the American context:
the effects of campaign activity on interest group involvement.
2
This paper shows that
campaign activity, rather than just being a response to citizen and civic group
involvement and mobilization, has its own transformative effect on those who get
involved subsequently, and that one significant effect is increased and widened
involvement in interest groups.
In particular, we argue that campaign involvement on behalf of a major party’s
general election candidates subsequently yields increased activity in those groups that are
important parts of that party’s interest group coalition. Furthermore, if this effect
resembles the effects we have found for nomination activity and third party support, the
2
This oversight is likely to be far less in corporatist systems.


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