The Governmental Process: Political Interests and Public Opinion

By David B. Truman | Go to book overview

1
The Alleged Mischiefs of Faction

MOST accounts of American legislative sessions -- national, state, or local -- are full of references to the maneuverings and iniquities of various organized groups. Newspaper stories report that a legislative proposal is being promoted by groups of business men or school teachers or farmers or consumers or labor unions or other aggregations of citizens. Cartoonists picture the legislature as completely under the control of sinister, portly, cigar-smoking individuals labeled "special interests," while a diminutive John Q. Public is pushed aside to sulk in futile anger and pathetic frustration. A member of the legislature rises in righteous anger on the floor of the house or in a press conference to declare that the bill under discussion is being forced through by the "interests," by the most unscrupulous high-pressure "lobby" he has seen in all his years of public life. An investigating committee denounces the activities of a group as deceptive, immoral, and destructive of our constitutional methods and ideals. A chief executive attacks a "lobby" or "pressure group" as the agency responsible for obstructing or emasculating a piece of legislation that he has recommended "in the public interest."

From time to time a conscientious and observant reporter collects a series of such incidents and publishes them, exposing in the best muckraking tradition the machinations of these subversive "interests," and, if he is fortunate, breaking into the best-seller lists. Or a fictionalized treatment of them may be presented as the theme of a popular novel.1

Such events are familiar even to the casual student of day-to-day

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1
For early and somewhat quaint treatments of this sort, see the novels of Winston Churchill: Coniston ( 1906) and Mr. Crewe's Career ( 1908).

-3-

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