The National Farmers Union: Ideology of a Pressure Group

The National Farmers Union: Ideology of a Pressure Group

The National Farmers Union: Ideology of a Pressure Group

The National Farmers Union: Ideology of a Pressure Group

Excerpt

In 1907, when the Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union of America (the Farmers Union) was five years old, the board of directors closed its annual report: "Yours for Humanity -- especially the American Farmer." A half century later, the Union's directors probably would not quarrel with the sentiment. The Farmers Union is an interest group for farmers, but it is also something more. Of America's three general farm organizations, it is the smallest, the second oldest, and the most emphatic in voicing farm grievance and support for a more egalitarian society and an internationalist foreign policy. The friendly and the antagonistic alike identify the organization as the most liberal of these three major farm groups. "Liberal" here is taken to mean the view that a nation shall be so governed that the benefits of society are as widely distributed as possible and that civil liberties receive their due. Among the causes the Union has favored are the initiative, referendum, recall, war referendum, full employment principle, higher minimum wages, broader social security coverage, expanded economic aid abroad, and a stronger United Nations. The Union is an ideological organization, not merely a farm interest group. It is an opinion group as well as an interest group.

These terms indicate two distinct aspects of the Union. An "interest group" organizes to make claims on society arising from attitudes members share about a common experience, usually occupation. The shared goals consequently tend to be economic. Most professional, labor, veterans', and business associations fall in this category. There are other groups, also usually called "interest groups," that will here be called "opinion groups" to avoid confusion. Their members share primarily not a common experience but certain convictions about public policy. The membership may be diverse in experience. Occupation is irrelevant for membership in the Committee for Constitutional Government, Americans for Democratic Action, American Civil Liberties Union, or the . . .

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