What is the role and importance of interest groups and political parties?

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jameadows's profile pic

jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Political parties (consisting of the two main parties, the Democrats and Republicans, and other third parties) are relatively weak in the United States. Political parties are far more powerful in parliamentary systems such as that of Great Britain, where the Prime Minister must earn the votes of legislators to stay in office. In the United States, legislators in the House and Senate are elected separately from the President, and therefore legislators must rely on cobbling together support in their home districts or states to win office. To do so, they rely less on their national political party than on gathering votes within their districts through winning the votes of important coalitions, such as law enforcement, unions, business groups, and other constituents. 

Interest groups, which are groups of citizens who band together to advance their common interests or cause and to sway politicians, are very powerful in the United States. For example, the Chamber of Commerce is an important interest group that includes large and small businesses. Unions such as the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) are other types of interest groups, as are professional organizations such as the American Bar Association (the association of lawyers) and the American Medical Association (the association of doctors). In addition, there are public interest groups on the left and right such as NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Planned Parenthood, and the NRA (National Rifle Association). All of these groups try to persuade politicians to support their causes by contributing to political campaigns, endorsing candidates, and lobbying legislators. These groups have proliferated since the 1970s and play a large role in campaigns and in trying to get legislation passed on the local and national levels. Interest groups on the left and right also publish information on the web and elsewhere that may or may not be accurate in an attempt to influence the political process. Interest groups play an important role in the American political process. 

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Interest groups and political parties play an important role in our political system. Political parties are important because they identify issues that are important to them, and they work to achieve goals related to those issues. This allows people who share a similar view on these issues to work together to try to accomplish these goals. Some of these issues include the economy, the interpretation of laws, the development policies regarding education, the level of taxation, and the role government plays in our lives.

Interest groups are important because they will generally support the political party that represents the goals and beliefs that they have. Interest groups can raise money to help candidates that share their beliefs. Interest groups also can run ads on television to support their candidates or to attack the opposition. Interest groups may spread information to the public about an issue that is important to them. (Sometimes, the information that is given is biased so the public needs to be aware of that.) In today’s political world, interest groups play a very significant role in helping a political party attract voters and gain support for key issues.