Oklahoma Politics & Policies: Governing the Sooner State

By David R. Morgan; Robert E. England et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
Political Participation, Parties, and Interest Groups

America has long prided itself on being a government by, for, and of the people. The people cannot govern themselves directly, however, in modern, complex societies. Today's democracies require mechanisms for translating the interests, preferences, and needs of the citizenry into public policy. So our system provides for certain basic representative institutions--primarily legislative bodies and elected chief executives. But more is required. Fair and frequent elections are essential to ensure that all groups have a reasonable chance to be heard in the electoral arena. Elections engender campaigns, and campaigns mean organization, money, media, and modern marketing techniques. Historically, political parties have been the principal device linking the people to the government, mainly through campaigns and elections. Indeed, until about the middle of this century, American parties played the dominant role in the most basic electoral functions of representative democracy: recruiting and nominating candidates for office, structuring political debate, raising money, organizing and mobilizing the electorate, and informing the people about issues and candidates.1 The political party system in the U.S. has undergone enormous change in recent years, with the advent of television, the growth of interest groups, and the increase in the use of direct primaries for candidate selection. To understand popular political behavior in any state, we must examine not only political parties, but interest groups and other means by which people influence their government.


POLITICAL PARTICIPATION AND DIRECT DEMOCRACY

People participate in the political process primarily by voting. Yet Americans vote at much lower rates than in most European democracies. For ex

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