The November mid-term elections are only days away, and we are besieged by political ads everywhere we look. One of the attacks permeating both sides is on those reviled, feared and all-powerful special interest groups. We can't seem to get through a day without hearing some politician use the term. But like most other words used in politics, the term is never defined, and it is just assumed that we know what/who comprise these groups.
Well, now comes the time to debunk the term and define it. When a politician uses the term, he or she is usually referring to any group that supports a political opponent. Depending on which side you are on, special interest groups could be oil companies, labor unions, wall street bankers, environmental groups, tea partiers, gender based groups, religious groups, race based groups and so on.
The fact of the matter is that if you look hard enough you will discover that you as an individual are already a part of multiple special interest groups, whether or not you are an official member or give donations. Every single one of us is a member of a special interest group. Why? Because as humans, we are most interested in our own self-interest. And we all have a worldview that tells us that issues either support or deny our own interests.
Politicians are effective at finishing our thoughts by ascribing good and evil to the issues at hand. A union member is taught that it is in his own self-interest to view corporate management and corporations themselves as evil. The power of this ascription is so strong that even though without that corporation's existence, the union worker would be on the unemployment line; the typical union member seems to maintain the core belief that without the union's existence the corporation would engage in crimes too horrible to mention against its workers.
On the other side, some believe in no government regulation over institutions such as financial services. Yet without some level of regulation and oversight companies like AIG will become the standard, not the exception. The fact is that special interest groups give money to support those causes that most directly positively impact their own bank accounts and it will be difficult if not impossible to convince people to vote for what might be in the best interests of the country.
We have met the special interest groups. They are us.
Lynn James Everard