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The Not-So-Special Interests

Interest Groups, Public Representation, and American Governance

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“Lobbyist” tends to be used as a dirty word in politics. Indeed, during the 2008 presidential primary campaign, Hillary Clinton was derided for even suggesting that some lobbyists represent “real Americans.” But although many popular commentators position interest groups as representatives of special—not “public"—interests, much organized advocacy is designed to advance public interests and ideas. 

Advocacy organizations—more than 1,600 of them—are now an important component of national political institutions. This book uses original data to explain why certain public groups, such as Jews, lawyers, and gun-owners, develop substantially more representation than others, and why certain organizations become the presumed spokespersons for these groups in government and media. In contrast to established theory and conventional wisdom, this book demonstrates that groups of all sizes and types generate advocates to speak on their behalf, though with varying levels of success. Matt Grossmann finds that the advantages of organized representation accrue to those public groups that are the most politically motivated and involved in their communities. Organizations that mobilize members and create a long-lasting presence in Washington become, in the minds of policymakers and reporters, the taken-for-granted surrogates for these public groups. In the face of perennial debates about the relative power of the people and the special interests, Grossmann offers an informed and nuanced view of the role of organizations in public representation and American governance.

From Publishers Weekly

Feb 27, 2012 – Tea Partyers and Occupiers alike think of “special interests” as shadowy cabals that subvert the people’s will, but this stimulating academic study finds them a faithful mirror of the body politic. Michigan State University political scientist Grossmann (coauthor of Campaigns & Elections: Rules, Reality, Strategy, Choice) compiles data on thousands of advocacy organizations—from the NRA to the AARP—to explain why some groups, like gun owners and seniors, develop effective representation in Washington while others do not. He advances a rich theory of “Behavioral Pluralism” based on “civic and political capacity”: constituencies that are more engaged with public affairs and their communities, he contends, make their voices heard better through organized representation. His companion theory of “Institutionalized Pluralism” argues that some advocacy groups grow more prominent than others, not because of PAC funding or media bias, but because of longevity, expert staffs, well-shaped sound bites, and legislative proposals. Though this lucid but bone-dry treatment wallows in statistics, the numbers generate an illuminating discussion of the centrality of factions in representative government. Grossmann’s clear-eyed analysis of who gets a seat at the table suggests that democracy’s faults lie not in our lobbyists but in ourselves.
The Not-So-Special Interests
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  • $19.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Politics & Current Events
  • Published: Apr 11, 2012
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Seller: Stanford University Press
  • Print Length: 248 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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