According to Thomas (2001), a political party is an organized group of individuals, who at least share political opinions and aims, as they seek to determine public policy by having its candidates elected by citizens to public office. In the United States, there are two typical political parties which include the Democrats and Republicans. Parties are usually are firmly and indestructibly entrenched in particular substructures of the particular society in a well functioning and sustainable democracy. Political parties can also connect the institutions of the government to the components of the civil society in a fair and free society and therefore considered a necessity for all modern democratic systems. An interest group is defined as formally organized association of organizations or individuals, that attempts to determine public policy on the basis of common concerns (Thomas, 2001). Interest groups have a common desire to influence the government for their own benefit. Interest groups and political parties have similarities and differences regarding their focus as well as the methods they use to represent and articulate citizens’ interests.
Similarities and Differences between Interest Groups and Political Parties
Interest Groups and Political Parties are both regarded as groups of individuals with common interests, opinions, and interests in the government (Flam & Marcus, 2008). They both desire to influence the public policy, government officials, elections, and enable individuals to be aware of whatever they do. Interest groups usually do not openly sponsor the group members to be elected as candidates into public office, but these members are appointed into public office, especially in the case of economic regulation. It is normal that interest groups do not encompass explicit labels of parties that voters employ as clews to identify specific political orientation (Flam & Marcus, 2008). It has however been found that some group of citizens may associate particular interest groups with specific parties in a general manner. Interest groups have also been found to have a narrow focus on a specific area of social concern or public policy as compared to political parties. Interest groups are formed on the basis of specific concerns such as free speech, environment, agricultural subsidies, tax reform, labor standards, free trade, and school funding, to name a few, while political parties are concerned in bringing some of these groups together under one roof (Hrebenar & Scott, 1982).
Interest groups and political parties experience different mechanisms of change. The interaction of membership and leadership within an interest group can be seriously limited. In case of a larger interest group, there is a need for various forms of publications as well as mailings for the group to make all members updated regarding its activities. The leadership of the interest group exclusively depends on informal ways for feedback regarding the membership’s sentiments (Flam & Marcus, 2008). In case of any disagreement within the interest group, individual members are not entitled to make any attempt to participate in a dialogue that can positively influence the interest group. This is therefore, a kind of environment that cannot allow for free interaction of members, which would be significant for politics to take place (Bond, Watson, & Smith, 2006). On the other hand, political parties’ organizational systems depend on the aggregation and consolidation of the views from individual members. Every year, all members come together with the purpose of discussing on the planks of the political party’s platform. Representatives ensure that this process continues until the platform of a national party is decided upon. Therefore, unlike the interest groups, political parties allow individual members to participate in making decisions and thus politics can take place (Bond, Watson, & Smith, 2006).
Even if the political parties do not appear to be more different from interest groups, the two differ in various ways on the basis of the membership organization. For instance, in the case of political parties, individual members are entitled to express themselves by contributing ideas for the positive change of the political party, while members in the interest groups are not allowed to make decisions even when there is a disagreement within the group. Therefore, unlike the interest groups, political parties allow individual members to participate in making decisions and thus politics can take place (Bond, Watson, & Smith, 2006).