Grassroots Organizations and Equilibrium Cycles in Group Mobilization and Access
James G. Gimpel
INTEREST groups in America can be categorized by their dominant strategies of influence -- the principal activity the group engages in to ensure that the doors of policymakers are opened to its ideas and goals. A group's dominant strategy is its path to power, its means for obtaining access. For some groups, the dominant strategy is the campaign contribution; for others, it is litigation and legal expertise; for some, it is information and technical expertise; and for still others, it is the capacity to mobilize thousands of donors and other members at the grassroots.
This chapter examines interest groups whose dominant strategy of influence is the activation of a mass base to bring pressure to bear on Congress. Drawn from interviews conducted in 1995, the chapter further focuses on activities by a variety of conservative and liberal groups in response to the Republican takeover of Congress. The 1994 elections changed entrenched patterns of access and influence. Groups that were closely aligned with the Democrats were fenced out, while groups allied with the out-party found that they had unprecedented access. This dramatic reversal of fortune suggests that interest group mobilization and influence are subject to the same kind of equilibrium fluctuations that are observable in the American two-party system.