Trial lawyers

Consider special interest groups such as trial lawyers (for the democrats) and the religious right (for the republican party) in light of their relative impact. For many years, the public had screamed for ‘tort reform’ because lawyers were making enormous amounts of money suing for purely profit driven motives. Yet, trial lawyers saw relative safety in congress because they had tremendous resources and influence. Often, legislation passed to help trial lawyers was in bold defiance of what the public wanted.

Similarly, a great deal of domestic policy in recent years has been designed to placate the social conservative leaning of the religious right. While the number of individuals who label themselves Christian conservative runs in the tens of millions, there were also many millions of people who felt that a certain morality was being forcibly imposed upon them by the religious special interests. While both trial lawyers and Evangelical conservatives enjoyed a significant amount of time in the sun seeing their needs catered to, this would be short lived as an eventual backlash occurred.

Citing tort reform as a major concern, a large part of the electorate turned against the democratic party in 1994 costing the democrats the House of Representatives after forty years of control. Similarly, the current crop of Republic Presidential candidates are decidedly members of the moderate right and have disassociated themselves from the religious right. This is a clear indication that there is belief that a backlash against Christian conservative based policies played a great part in the republicans loss of the House.

This does not mean, however, that special interest groups are, by their very nature, harmful. Consider the special interests groups on both sides of the fence on environmental issues. There are those special interests groups who would like to open more of the domestic territory towards oil drilling and there are those groups that are opposed to such a tactic. Those looking to promote drilling can make the claim that the increased drilling with reduce dependency on foreign oil as well as contributing to the growth of the economy.

Those looking to block increased drilling will make the claim that such ventures are financially risky and pose a danger to the environment. Regardless of where one stands on the issue, both sides offer compelling arguments on the subject. Furthermore, there is an important sphere to this subject that is often overlooked: the subject of domestic oil drilling is a subject that the general public has very limited knowledge. The special interests groups that promote their side of the debate have significant knowledge and experience in the area.

Because of this, they can present a logical and compelling case to congress. Whatever decision is derived from the lobbying and influence the special interests will bring forward, the public at large will gain the rewards if the decision that is ultimately made benefits the public. Unfortunately, because many people are not familiar with this particular subject, they see any activity involving the subject as being a member of the ‘special interest realm’ and not something that benefits society as a whole.

Such an assessment is not accurate, but it is an assessment that many people hold. Therein lays a common misconception about special interest groups. The stereotypical opinion of a special interest group is that it is a self serving entity that represents a very small minority of people. In reality, the inner workings of a special interest group might benefit the public at large.

These groups are not so much self servings as much as independently and privately organized and because of this gain a public perception of being a minute, self serving entity. As such, special interest groups have their positives and their negatives. In order to truly understand these positives and negatives, one must examine the role special interests play in the political arena and realize that politics is not about fairness, it is about power and influence, two components that special interest groups have in significant quantities.