The famous French writer on American government and society Alexis de Tocqueville once wrote that America was a nation of joiners. This facet of American political life has not changed since de Tocqueville made his observation in the nineteenth century. Americans are much more likely to join political and social organizations than people in other countries. Although most political scientists agree that this unique trend has a positive impact on democracy, the political power wielded by these groups sometimes dominates the political process at the expense of individuals and society as a whole. For example, many Americans these days feel that politicians listen more to special interests than to average voters, and John McCain centered his 2000 presidential bid around attacks on the power of interest groups.

Interest groups come in all shapes and sizes. They range from very liberal to very conservative and everything in between. Lobbyists pursue nearly every imaginable goal, from tax credits to fundamental revisions of American political culture. The National Rifle Association, the American Association of Retired Persons, the National Organization for Women, and the World Wildlife Fund are all examples of interest groups.

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