Interest Group Politics and Collective Action Essay

1539 Words 7 Pages
Interest Group Politics and Collective Action

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender advocacy group in the nation. With over 400,000 members, the group is able to lobby very effectively in Washington and has an impressive legislative record. The HRC began in 1980 as a fund to raise money for gay-supportive congressional candidates. It was meant to be a response to the successful right-wing groups at the time, including the National Conservative Political Action Committee and Moral Majority. By 1984, the Human Rights Campaign Fund was effectively supporting congressional candidates, raising over 475,000 dollars. By 1990, the HRC had a membership of 25 thousand, and was organizing
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The HRC, however, retains a high degree of legitimacy and effectiveness in the political world mainly because rights-advocacy positions have a high salience in the American political system. The group’s small, personalized constituency may even help in its efforts to mobilize effectively, but that will be discussed in the next section. When examining the dynamics of any interest group, one benefits from keeping in mind Mancur Olson’s Logic of Collective Action. Each and every group of people must deal with the problem of collective action, the problem of discovering how to get each individual to act and contribute towards furthering a common interest. As I said before, the Human Rights Campaign may benefit from having a smaller, more personalized base of members. The gay community is extremely cohesive, especially when compared to other social and even ethnic groups. In many cities, gays reside, work, and socialize within a very tight sphere. This general characteristic of the gay community aids the HRC in combating the collective action problem since it makes the membership small and easier to break into even smaller parts. Larger, more loosely bound groups have a difficult time organizing because members perceive lower social benefits and greater probability that others in the group will do the work for them (Olson). The HRC will still have to deal with this free rider