Chapter 5Changes in Relationships Between Civil Society and Government-US
Theory of civil society and citizenship
Political power and community
Equity and participation
Political culture and public space
Participation in elections
Local election systems and governance
Roles of citizen groups
Appearance and growth of new interests/groups
Disconnections-positive and negative
Impact on quality of subnational government and public policy (participation, transparency, etc.
Effective governmental action in a democracy depends critically on the nature of the relationship between citizens and government. Having examined the historical context and evolution of local government and intergovernmental relations, this chapter focuses on the recent evolution of civil society itself and its role in determining governmental action. Thise topic is complex, involving many different dimensions. Political philosophy and theory inform discussions and debates on civil society-government relations but actual historical practice is shaped by political culture that varies not only across countries, but also even across regions within the three countries of interest here. To frame the question, the first section discusses a number of theoretical positions and definitions concerning the relationship between civil society and government in democratic systems. The discussion then turns to elections, political parties, and politically active organizations in civil society and their effect on government.
[STATEMENT OF RESEARCH QUESTIONS TO BE INCORPORATED]
Civil Society and Government: Theoretical Considerations
This discussion assumes that the institutions and organizations in the public sector can be distinguished from those outside the public sector. This boundary, however, is problematic for theoretical and operational reasons. In Plato’s conception, the republic was the embodiment of civil society, not in tension with it. Even though later liberal theorists, such as Hobbes and Locke, became concerned with the coercive power of the state and mechanisms to constrain it, government was still a creation of society.
Members of government are also members of society. A citizen that assumes a function in government does not lose his or her role in civil society or civil organizations. Elected official are members of governmental institutions but they may also remain members of a variety of civil organizations. In addition, these elected officials may be representing the interests of civil society in their official capacities. This issue becomes particularly acute when examining subnational government where officials may have a greater loyalty to local communities than to governmental institutions. The institutional demarcation of government and civil society may appear quite distinct, but in contexts where institutions are relatively weak and citizen affiliations multifaceted, the demarcation may be quite fuzzy.
A further complication appears in the related concept of the state. In recent years, the renewed interest and use of the concept of state in academic research has reflected a move from the previously prevailing society-centered studies.1 Building on the Weberian tradition of the concept, Peter Evans writes:
“The state must be considered more than the “government.” It is the continuous administrative, legal, bureaucratic and coercive systems that attempt not only to structure the relationships between civil society and public authority in a polity but also to structure many crucial relationships within civil society as well.2”
The concept of the state joins governmental and nongovernmental actors into systems that serve various purposes. The concept of state recognizes that individuals or narrow groups in civil society can exercise great control, through systemic mechanisms, over governmental action.
In spite of these conceptual difficulties with boundaries and definitions, distinguishing between civil society and government and examining the relation between the two provides a rich analytical structure for country-based comparisons. Furthermore, the narrowly defined category of government allows an organizationally based focus on governmental bodies and agencies as actors and producers of outcomes.
In framing the analysis in terms of policymaking in democratic societies, one may tend to emphasize a one-way connection between civil society and government; in democratic polities, societal needs and demands presumably determine government action. The relationship, however, is two-way and government action can impede or facilitate the articulation of demands and interests in civil society. In other words, governmental institutions may be able to shape or limit the demands of public. In addition, the unintended consequences of past government action itself may create new needs in the society. Historical studies have argued that past governmental action can have a decisive impact on the way societies organized themselves politically.3 Western European countries with historically strong centralized governmental institutions produced a class-based political culture. The highly fragmented and territorial based governmental structure in the United States produced a political culture composed principally of narrowly based interests.
Political Power and Community The exercise of political power in local government has been extensively discussed in the U.S. from the perspectives of two competing schools of thought. According to elite theory, major governmental decisions are made by a small group of elites, frequently hidden from public view, and local government serves to implement these decisions. In contrast, the pluralist model recognizes that the interests of multiple groups can be represented in local decision-making and that policy outcomes will generally be the result of compromises made among groups. Local government serves as the broker among these competing interests. Conflict between these two schools of thought has evolved largely as a result of fairly extensive field research.4 While the details of this history need not be investigated here, several important elements of each perspective are quite relevant to our current discussion.
After much research, the original formulation of elite theory – that a small ruling elite controlled all local decision making – was found inadequate, and the theory was modified: the ruling elite exercised its power only in critical decisions and left minor decisions to others. The critical decisions are those related to development policy. On issues of development, specifically land development, an elite associated with developers, the construction industry, mortgage banking, and other interests effectively controls policymaking exercised through elected politicians, administrators of major governmental agencies, and the local media. This elite is relatively indifferent to allocation policies of local government, so long as the administration of these policies is efficient, and blocks any action on redistributive policy or other policies that might lead to higher tax rates. In other words, this elite controls decisions important to the economic vitality of a community (as perceived by the elites), including those of redistribution, but is largely indifferent to other types of local policy.5
The pluralist tradition has nurtured a wide variety of theoretical interpretations. According to some, numerous organized groups are interested in various policy issues, and many have overlapping membership. No one group can dominate any particular area of policymaking for any length of time, nor can a group dominate several policy areas simultaneously. For example, groups interested in public amenities are unlikely to be the same groups involved in decisions concerning economic infrastructure. In any policy area, however, outcomes are the result of bargaining and compromise among the interest groups present. Proponents of this theory differ in their interpretation of two mechanisms: (1) the relative power of various interest groups – evenly distributed versus concentrated – and (2) the ease with which new groups can form and participate in decision-making. In any case, politically weak groups must be able to form coalitions and act in convert with others to influence decisions.
[CLIENTALISTIC relations in Brazil and Mexico could be integrated with this material in next version of chapter.]
Equity and participation
The evaluation of democratic practice requires consideration of questions of political equality and citizen participation. Political equality requires that all citizens have the same political rights and receive the same treatment by government. Participation, however, refers to citizens exercising these rights, either through voting in elections or through processes that affect governmental actions. The two concepts are related and both are necessary for democratic governance.
Community and citizen participation in public life have been central concerns throughout the history of the United States. At the founding of the country, the issue was framed in terms of the rule of the majority and rights or minorities, or factions. The French Observer, Alexis de Tocqueville, in the mid-nineteenth century found that the extensive participation of Americans in a wide range of associations made a fundamental contribution to U.S. democratic practice and its likely survival.6 In addition to the concern with factions, the evolution of the U.S. political system is notable for its commitment to and success in extending the voting franchise, an essential element of political equality, to ever-larger segments of the adult population. Barriers such as gender, race, and lack of property have been removed, often in response to the demands of the disenfranchised groups. The beneficiaries of the expanded voting franchise have frequently been groups with lower socioeconomic characteristics and groups whose interests were not being fully incorporated into policymaking. The dramatic expansion of the voting franchise to working-class men at the end of last century coincided with the expansion of public education. In the 1960s, the expansion of the voting franchise to African Americans, or more precisely the prohibition against the denial of voting rights, coincided with the substantial expansion of federal policies dealing with poverty.
During the second half of the twentieth century, the concern with community has continued, although the terms have changed. The issues have ranged from the incorporation of disenfranchised groups to the purportedly excessive power of interest groups. Offering a different perspective, a number of scholars have argued that the erosion of a wide range of institutions, from family to church to community, has weakened society and created instability.7These institutions, in an earlier period, provided coherence to society by mediating between individuals and society at large. Through continual, face-to-face interactions, community problems are defined, solutions are proposed, and consensus is reached. Such processes, called “strong democratic talks” by Benjamin Barber, are seen as the essence of political participation.8 The weakening of institutions in recent decades has had a number of deleterious effects, including the undermining of democratic politics and increasing dependence on government.9
Policies to secure political participation of citizens can be justified as a way of encouraging human development and as the concrete expression of political equality. In response to the emergence of large corporations early in the century and of large governmental institutions following World War II, another rationale for political participation emerged. It was argued that citizen participation was essential to counterbalance the growing power of these large institutions. A tension between the expertise of large bureaucracies and the will of citizens could be resolved only through citizen or community participation in the development and implementation of public policy. A final rationale, particularly prominent in the 1960s, was that community participation would relieve the sense of powerlessness and rage seen in disadvantaged, minority communities.
Political Culture and Public Space
In the areas of public policy where states have significant discretion in decision-making, choices by states vary widely. The factors explaining the variation in choices include political culture, level of economic and educational development, extent of interparty competition, gubernatorial-legislative competition, fiscal conditions, professionalization of state legislatures, and others. The scholarship on the relative importance of these factors in policy outcomes is far from conclusive. Further complicating such research is that the nature of the factors themselves are changing.
The study of state governments and political culture has a long history. In a very important contribution to this literature, Key elaborated the notion of state political culture and identified the importance of national politics and parties to state policymaking. Writing in the 1950s, Key noted that as the federal government and national parties became increasingly significant during and following the New Deal, state parties and policy were affected.10 State politics became less autonomous, but remained heavily tied to traditions of political culture within a state. Elazar further elaborated the concept of political culture.11 To describe political culture he developed categories of individualistic, traditionalistic, and moralistic cultures. The presence of one or some combination of these within a state could explain state policy choices, according to Elazar. Traditionalistic culture tends to dominate Southern states and the corresponding policy outcomes are low levels of taxation and government expenditures, particularly for welfare expenditures. Moralistic cultures, more common in the North of the country, are more open to innovation and tend to have higher levels of public services, especially in social policy areas, and higher levels of taxation. Individualistic cultures produce relatively moderate levels of governmental programs, but give emphasis to programs promoting individual success rather the programs favoring the public good found in the moralistic culture. The variation in policy decision among states is thus argued to be associated with differences in political culture.12
Interparty competition has also been considered as a determinate of state policy outcomes.13 Some argued that the presence of significant competition would produce outcomes favorable to less represented groups and would produce higher levels of spending for educational efforts as the two parties attempted to compete for the middle of the political spectrum. After identifying various types of competition, only in the rare case of interparty differences that are issue-based does competition appear to have an affect on policy outcomes.14 Others argued that attention to party competition missed the underlying factors of socio-economic status of states; prosperous states provided higher levels of governmental services, especially for welfare programs. Variation among states on this factor provided the principal explanation for variation in policy choices.15 Political parties have evolved into service organizations for candidates and interest groups are exerting greater influence in elections due to improved organization and resources.
While interparty competition at the state level is becoming more prominent, especially in the traditionally Democratic South, party identification has declined throughout the country. On many policy issues, state political leaders do not look to the national party for direction or for aid in promoting their agendas. In recent decades, gubernatorial candidates frequently run as pragmatic problem-solvers and once in office, distinguishing Democratic from Republican governors based on policy decisions is not always straightforward.
Increasing party competition in state elections can be observed by gains made by Republicans in state legislatures, especially in the South (see Graph 1). By the late 1990s Democrats and Republicans controlled roughly equal numbers of state legislatures but the number of split legislatures has increased. The number of states with divided government, that is one party controlling the governor’s office and the other the legislature, increased very substantially (see Graph 2), again reflecting heightened competition in state level politics.
Wealth and place help explain differences in party success.16 The self-employed (small business person) increasingly associate with the Republican Party and professionals with the Democratic Party due to liberal views on social issues.17 But clearly, the Republican Party is the party of wealth and districts with high income levels typically elect Republicans. The substantial variation in income levels across U.S. geography produces distinct and stable patterns. In metropolitan areas wealthy suburban districts tend to vote Republican and urban districts Democratic. Although suburban legislators tend to be the largest block in most states, their advantage is modest and the domination of state legislatures depends on trends in rural districts where the parties tend to be competitive. The degree to which competitive rural districts flip to suburban districts as the metropolitan areas expand is crucial for control of state legislatures.
Participation in elections
Voter turnout. The share of eligible voters in the U.S. who actually vote, the voter turnout ratio, started a long term decline in the 1960s. In presidential elections, this decline was interrupted by an increase in 1992 due to the participation of Ross Perot but lower turnouts returned in following elections.18 Possible explanations of the decline include disengagement in political life, changes in the way political parties interact with members, restrictions of election and voter registration law, failure to mobilize society around issues, and complacency. Although some segments of the national electorate have been effectively mobilized, such as the Christian conservatives, their numbers do not compensate for very the larger number of eligible voters who do not vote.
The especially low voter turnout among the Hispanic population is particularly noteworthy given that the Hispanic population will soon exceed the African America population. Among eligible voters in the late 1990s, the number of Hispanics grew by 17 percent compared to non -Hispanics increase of 1 percent.19 In many areas, Hispanics, such as South Texas and parts of New Mexico and Arizona, Hispanics hold a substantial majority of the total population and the eligible voting population. However, Hispanics tend not to registrar and not to vote, in the same proportions as other racial and ethnic groups. In states with a large Hispanic population, the Republican Party adopts strategies to attract Hispanic voters in order to remain competitive in statewide elections. Presidential candidate Bob Dole and California governor Pete Wilson made costly missteps with Hispanic voters.20 The growth of the Hispanic vote may make some states competitive that had flipped from being Democratic-dominated to Republican-dominated.
Local election systems and governance. The politics of local elections differ from state elections in quite distinct ways. In large cities, the success of neighborhood movement, black power movement and unions in public sector in the 1960s and the passage of the Voting Rights Act 1965 with the imposition of single member districts dramatically transformed urban politics.21 These changes include the dramatic expansion in the number of minority members of city councils and mayors. The increasing racial diversity of the country’s major cities has meant that politics are very competitive and conflictive. Rarely can consensus be formed on issues and underrepresented groups must organize and express themselves politically for concerns to be placed on the public agenda.
By contrast, elections in suburban jurisdictions tend to be less competitive and politics are less contentious, as compared to those of the center city. Given fairly homogenous and relatively affluent populations, voters expect efficient and lean local government. This well established pattern, however, is evolving in the so-called inner suburbs which increasingly have demographic and economic characteristics similar to center cities.
A number of states, with California the most promiment example, have witnessed an increase in the use of citizen initiative and referendum provisions of state law. This phenemon certainly represents heightened citizen invovlment, but it has been argued that initiative and referendum are being overused in that inaapropirate, in not frivolous issues are raised. Also, the outcomes of these elections can marginalize legitimate legislative processes as was the case in the tax revolt in California. (TO BE FURTHER DEVELOPED)
Roles of citizen groups
The political franchise and fair election systems do not necessarily secure the participation of low- and moderate-income individuals and communities in the policy process. Nor is voting the only means of participating in politics and policymaking. Opinions concerning policy can be voiced through the media. Participation may occur in public hearings when groups consult with public officials. A more forceful form of such participation, called social action, occurs when political resources are mobilized by groups for the purpose of placing issues on the public agenda and securing the adoption of specific policies. Yet another form of participation by communities can occur when individuals from these groups assume roles in neighborhood government or service delivery agencies.
Government-Sponsored Efforts. In the Urban Renewal Program of the 1954 Housing Act marked an important change in the role of citizens in implementation of federal policy. The program, which provided for citizen review of projects, responded to complaints of the so-called bulldozer model of urban renewal.22 While participation was originally formulated to imply blue ribbon commissions and consequently was fairly elitist in nature, later revisions required the participation of local residents. The Community Action Program (CAP) of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 required the maximum feasible participation of residents in program implementation. This requirement was interpreted by some as a mandate to organize low-income community groups and often led to direct political action by these communities. The Model Cities program of the Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act of 1966 relied more heavily on implementation through local government and through the mobilization of public and private resources. With no formal community participation requirements, the program represented a retreat from the earlier participation requirements23 it some cities community participation in the program led to neighborhood government, whereby communities actually assumed responsibility for implementing programs.
The 1960s experience with community participation was criticized. Many elected urban politicians found that the CAP, in particular, produced local political adversaries, and they pressured Congress to revise the participation requirement. On the other hand, the decentralization of program implementation to the neighborhood level, whether or not efficient, relieved political turmoil in cities even if it did not meet community expectations. Government-imposed requirements of political participation did not necessarily redistribute political power and community groups frequently remained relatively weak actors in urban policymaking.
Over time, the federal government revised its requirements with respect to the form of community or citizen participation and greatly expanded the number of such provisions. By 1974, ten years after the CAP, 150 new citizen participation programs were created.24 In the 1970s, the new programs tended to target participation of middle-class groups rather than low-income groups, as in the 1960s, and there was surprisingly little opposition to such requirements from any quarter, including governmental agencies.25 This impulse to reform government was also manifested in the proliferation of public counsels in state government and the greater use of citizen referendums and initiatives. In the 1990s, this impulse is associated with the “reinventing government” movement.
Public policies intended to induce communities to organize and participate in political life have rarely been of lasting benefit. However, supportive governmental actions—election system reform, initiative and referendum, public records acts, open meetings, legislative reform, Sunset review, and others—have certainly facilitated accessibility and accountability in government. Citizens have demanded more openness, and the results have created more opportunities for citizen and community organizations to participate. There is, however, a distributive dimension to these benefits. To the extent that these measures require resources and some level of sophistication to be used effectively, the poor and unorganized will receive less benefit from their availability.
Community-Initiated Efforts. Disenfranchised, low-income populations have on occasion acquired power and gained access to policymaking through political organizing. One historically important strategy adopted by the powerless outsiders has been the protest movement. Lipsky has studied the use of protest as a means by which relatively powerless organizations gain such access.26 Protest becomes an effective strategy in the policymaking process only if these groups are able to gain the attention and support of so-called reference groups. The media attention on the protest, in which grievances are articulated, must mobilize nonaffected groups – the reference publics that have some political power – that in turn force public officials to respond to the grievances. Relatively weak or powerless groups can thereby indirectly affect policymaking by activating third parties that act on their behalf.
Piven and Cloward provide another perspective on the protest strategy.27 Their analysis of four major protest movements – the protests by the unemployed and the struggles of the union movements during the 1930s and the civil rights and welfare rights movements during the 1960s – led them to the conclusion that these protests succeeded because of their disruptive potential to the power elites, not because of the ability of the disadvantaged to organize themselves. Political power of the poor depends as much on fears on the part of the powerful as on the historic windows of opportunities in which the powerless were distraught enough for mobilization. Efforts by altruistic advocates to organize are therefore often futile if the historic moment has not arrived. Organizing efforts could even be counterproductive if they serve to contain the disruptive potential of the protest movement.
Both perspectives suggest significant limitations to the protest strategy: it is difficult to sustain over time and does not, in itself, allow the powerless group to acquire power. Saul Alinsky developed an alternative strategy in the 1930s through his community organizing work in Chicago.28 Although the original Alinsky model was adopted a confrontational approach, it differed in its limited geographical scale and its departure from the ideological emphasis of protest movements. While protest activists from unionists to civil rightists tended to cast politics in moral vocabulary of right versus wrong, Alinsky organizers recognized that the average citizen’s concerns were more pragmatic personal and community problems.29 Alinsky organized around specific issues such as jobs and community infrastructure, rather than broad ideological themes of rights and freedom. The vehicles for organizing became small group meetings and person-to-person discussions through PTAs and 4-H Clubs, instead of marches and demonstrations. The tactics used by Alinsky organizers remained confrontational, however, and aimed at disrupting and annoying the local power establishments.
This model became an important foundation for later community work with the poor. Indeed, scholars have traced the parallel evolutions between paradigms of organizing in the United States and the political-economic context of the country.30 The populist movements toward the end of the nineteenth century were efforts to organize an agriculturally based disenfranchised population against the impending political threat of industrialization. The labor movements of the 1930s were class-based organizing efforts to protect the working poor. As class-based ideology diminished in political significance, the organized protests of the 1960s were more issue oriented, evolving from the broader-based civil rights movements to women’s rights, welfare rights, gay rights, and so on.
Against this historical context, the Alinsky model’s central tenets of neighborhood organizing have become all the more appealing as the public at large, and low-income communities in particular, developed a sense of alienation from electoral politics and mistrust of governmental institutions in the 1970s and 1980s. Modern-day community organizing groups emphasize the use of mediating structures close to the life of the people – churches, schools, and neighborhood groups – as rallying points to pursue issues that are of economic and political interest to the local communities. This citizen-based version of political participation ascribes to low-income outsider groups a role that is in direct contrast to the electoral-based version upon which both the elitist and pluralist theories, discussed below, were predicated.
While Alinsky-style neighborhood organizing is the most directly relevant for low-income communities, it is by no means the only tradition in what Harry Boyte calls “citizen advocacy” today.31 Other traditions of citizen advocacy that have indirect impact on low-income communities—even those efforts transcend geographic boundaries—include public interest advocacy represented by Ralph Nader, Consumers Union, and Public Interest Research Campaign; and constituency advocacy for specific groups such as campaigns for migrant farmworkers and Gray Panthers.32 Nor has the Alinsky model remained unchanged through the last few decades.33 An important evolution of this model is the shift from the initial emphasis on issue organizing to a more contemporary emphasis on political education and indigenous leadership development.
The shift from a focus on neighborhood issue to neighborhood empowerment is the result of cumulative experience among community organizers: success in winning small battles does not necessarily produce a coherent and purposeful political identity among the disenfranchised. From the 1970s on, IAF organizers began to define their missions as the development of human potential and community leadership in the public realm. To that end, victory over specific issues may well be part of the process agenda—and winning is empowering—but is seldom the ultimate mission.
Contemporary community advocacy groups face substantial challenges. As these groups adapt to the conservative political environment of the 1990s and strive to integrate low-income families’ own self-interest into the broader process of political education, some observers fear that the groups may themselves become so moderate in their tone that they lose effectiveness as advocates.34 Another constant struggle is the extent to which these organizations should rely on technical expertise and resource mobilization from outside the groups. Since the central purpose is community empowerment, over-reliance on external resources defeats that very purpose. Yet in the increasingly sophisticated political and technical environment, it may be difficult for such groups to win many battles without borrowing expertise from other groups of from coalition building.
Appearance and growth of new interests/groups
The existence of conflicting factions, as they were called in Federalist Paper number 10, was a key concern in the constitutional convention and the decentralized nature of U.S. governance has encouraged the formation of interest groups. During the last two decades, however, the nature of interest group politics has changed dramatically, particularly in terms of the proliferation of such groups.35 New communications and information technology has permitted more actors to gain access to information critical to public policymaking and to mobilize affected constituents.
Business groups have proliferated as a result of the increasing complexity and diversity in the economy. While there are a number of broad national business interest group representatives, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, there are scores of other organizations representing industries, small businesses, major corporations, public utilities, minority businesses, and others. The emergence of new economic sectors, market segmentation, and expansion of international markets have diversified the economic interests of firms. Occupational groups--teachers, public sector employees, unions, medical, and health care workers--have formed interest groups, some of which are very influential. Public interest groups have multiplied; there were 2,500 in 1986, with supporting memberships of 40 million and budgets that totaled more than $4 billion.36 Citizen groups, environmental groups, and single-issue groups have become adept at forming coalitions and are now significant factors in policymaking.37
The proliferation of groups has occurred at the state level as well. In 1973, the forty-six states that required lobbyist to register reported 12,188 individuals and organizations registered; in 1991 the fifty states reported more than 29,000 individuals and organizations.38 National interest groups will frequently have state affiliates. State-level business organizations have specialized and proliferated.39 Interest groups have become increasingly professional, as the old-boy method of state lobbying has faded. The increasing sophistication of state legislators and state executive officers along with the legal restrictions placed on lobbying activity have required increasing competence on the part of lobbyists. While business interest groups have always had the resources to develop and present technical and empirical data to bolster their recommendations, other interest groups have also developed this capacity, frequently drawing upon national organizations or groups in other states.
The increased number of interest groups and their active participation in politics has occurred as the influence of the two major political parties has declined. It has been argued that the shift from candidate-centered to interest group-centered elections results from the strength of interest groups and that they are assuming functions traditionally found in parties.40 Neither party has been entirely successful in capturing fully the interests and political expressions of minorities, women, taxpayers, environmentalists, consumers, community groups, and others.41 These various publics are aggressively exercising their preferences, frequently outside of the party structure and even outside the legislative process, as seen in the increased use of initiative and referendum.
The recent proliferation of interest groups, especially in Washington, D.C., is broadly criticized. Some argue that the large number of groups makes it difficult to build consensus and reach policy compromises, gives minority interests (that is single-issue groups) too much power, and consequently undermines political parties and the policymaking process. In addition, if interest groups heavily influence policymaking, those groups in society unable to organize and express themselves politically will not be part of the political process. One solution is to create surrogates, such as an office of public counsel in state regulatory commissions. Also citizens groups, such as the Consumers Union and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), may assume positions that reflect the interests of low-income constituents. Elements of the business community have also participated in policy discussions concerning the social programs, particularly education.42
Disconnections-positive and negative
[Section is incomplete: bullet points of major findings]
Citizens can affect public policy, but rarely as individuals. Disadvantaged groups must mobilize and overcome significant challenges. Issue of size and scale--government service delivery systems are large and complex. .
Level of organization in civil society is difficult to assess. Contradictory trends. Voter turnout trending downward, yet at subnational level many areas have quite competitive politics and active participation of civil society organizations.
Membership organizations have gained influence, such as the very powerful AARP
Weakness of political parties in terms of mobilizing around issues and engaging citizens in substantive policy issues. Political parties do not provide vehicle for educating public on policy issues.
As more nongovernmental actors are engaged, policymaking becomes more difficult. In major cities policymaking is quite conflictive and difficulty in forming consensus.
The process of decentralization has generated more opportunities for citizen participation in state and local policymaking (fewer instance of federal policy being imposed). Subnational governmental structures, however, can impede more open and effective policymaking. In metropolitan areas, forming political alliances across jurisdictions has rarely occurred.
[Summary of relevant points from a study ocnducted in Texas]
An examination of six cases in Texas, in which nongovernmental organizations played critical roles in policy formation, revealed several significant findings.43 Voting was an important mechanism for groups in these cases to gain legitimacy and standing. The creation of organizations through which individuals could express themselves politically provided a successful mechanism for inducing participation of large numbers of people. In other words, these organizations constituted successful political intermediaries and, as such, represent interesting substitute to a role played formerly by political parties. But their emergence is all the more striking in that they represent the interests of low- and moderate-income populations, groups historically with quite little power.
None of the groups were formed as a result of government initiatives but they did take advantage of avenues for participation created by federal policy, such as the Voting Rights Act. In addition, community participation provisions in the community development block grant program. The inclusion of representatives of low-income populations in blue ribbon commissions to examine education and indigent health care provided opportunities for influences. Forums with broad participation also provide an opportunity for contention and the debate of ideas, another principle of democratic practice. These examples reinforce a widely held belief among students of public policy: that the design of public policy should incorporate a broad range of interests and that these interests, to be effective, must come to policy discussions with their own technical expertise and analysis. The appropriateness of advocacy based on technical expertise can be opposed on grounds of efficiency and fairness. Those versed in rational planning argue that technical expertise should develop an objective, detached best solution. Others note that groups without technical expertise cannot fully participate in policymaking. Regardless of one’s position on this question, several of these case studies strongly suggest that the direct experience of the organizations with the issue at hand allowed them to make important contributors to the analysis of the problem and the design of solutions.
Impact on quality of subnational government and public policy (participation, transparency, etc.)
For more than a decade, a debate has raged in the United States concerning the health of democracy. Citizen anger over public sector performance, on one hand, and declining voter turnout, on the other, have fueled the debate. The richness of public life depends, to some extent, on organizations and associations that mediate between individuals and government. Their decline means that fewer avenues remain for citizens to discuss and understand public issues and to act on them. The anger may be the result of people lacking avenues to express their concerns in the political process and believing that the public sector is indifferent to them. However, sufficient examples exist to suggest viable alternative responses to the crisis in U.S. democracy and that non-governmental organizations can play important roles in the design of public policy and in the performance of local and state government.
State and local policymaking has improved substantially improved in recent decades and process open to nongovernmental actors. There is much variation, however, across states and cities. Business organizations have always been active but the numbers and diversity of such organizations has increased. Interest group coalitions have substantial technical expertise and availability of public information has allowed such groups to be better prepared.
[Major points are sketched below, TO BE FURTHER DEVELOPED]
Substantial expansion in the number of nongovernmental organizations participating in the formation of state and local policy. These organizations bring much improved technical analysis to policy discussions. National organizations with state level affiliates insure quick diffusion of information.
Party competition at state level has increased and responsiveness to citizens and constituency demands would be expected to improve policymaking, but parties are not serving effectively the role of political intermediary for state and local policy. Multitude of organizations has emerged to fill this vacuum.
In the Texas study of community-based organizations and policymaking, mentioned above, the public sector performed reasonably well. The policy outcomes did not always produce dramatic improvement: the state school finance system is more equitable now than in the early 1980s, but it is far from being truly equitable. Furthermore, equity in the finance system will not necessarily produce more effective education. Similarly, the passage of the indigent health care initiative represented and impressive success, but it was not fully implemented. In spite of the lack of dramatic improvement, when presented with legitimate problems, the policy process provided reasonable outcomes at least partly responsive to the interests and needs of low-income communities.
Changing laws and political culture were enabling but not decisive factors in the degree of responsiveness of the public sector. The mobilization of citizens was the critical element in affecting outcomes. The cases do not suggest a government reinventing itself, but rather citizens transforming or creating government policy. Some cases, especially those of colonias and school finance, a certain modernization of the public sector occurred: old institutions are reformed to be consistent with contemporary issues and problems. But in all these cases, community organizations and their advocates provoked the change. These were success stories and the public sector, in the end, performed well, although it has done so principally in response to citizen pressure. It is not public sector performance per se, however, that is encouraging in these cases but rather the message concerning governance. The representation if not the direct participation, in the policy process of groups heretofore excluded from policymaking has helped redefine elements of the public policy agenda in the state and has enriched public life.
1 Theda Skocpol, “Bring the State Back In: Strategies of Analysis in Current Research,” in Peter Evans, Dietrich Rueschemeyer and Theda Skocpol, Eds. Bringing the State Back In (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985, pp. 3-37.
2 Alfred Stepan, The State and Society: Peru in Comparative Perspective (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978), p. xii.
3 Skocpol, “Bringing the State Back In,” pp. 25-27.
4 David Judge, Gerry Stoker, and Harold Wolman, eds., Theories of Urban Politics (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1995); Robert J. Waste, community Power: Directions for Future Research (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1986), chapter 1.
5 This conception generates a role for local government similar to that argued for by Peterson in City Limits.
6 Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (New York: Harper and Row, 1966).
7 A group of writers holding this view is discussed in Richard L. Cole, Citizen Participation and the Urban Policy Process (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1974), 2-4. See also Peter L. Berger and Richard J. Neuhaus, To Empower People: The Role of Mediating Structures in Public Policy (Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute, 1977).
8 Benjamin Barber, Strong Democracy: Participatory Politics for a New Age (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).
9 Alan Wolfe, Whose Keeper: Social Science and Moral Obligation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989).
10 V. O. Key, Jr., American State Politics: An Introduction (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956), chapter 2.
11 Daniel J. Elazar, American Federalism: A View from the States (New York: Thomas Crowell Co., 1966), chapters 7-9.
12 For a discussion of the research literature testing these concepts, see Thomas J. Anton, American Federalism and Public Policy (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1989), pp. 50-60.
13 Thomas R. Dye, Politics, Economics and the Public: Policy Outcomes in the American States (Chicago: Rand McNally & Co., 1966), pp. 54-58.
14 Thomas R. Dye, American Federalism: Competition Among Governments (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1990), pp. 124-132.
15 Dye, Politics, Economics and the Public, chapters 9, 10, and 11.
Hrebnar, Ronald J., Robert C. Benedict, and Matthes J. Burbank, Political parties, Interest Groups, and Political Campaigns,(Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999).
16 Barone, Michael, William Lilley III, and Laurence J. De Franco, State Legislative Elections: Voting Patterns and Demographics (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, INC., 1998), Introduction (no page numbers).
17 Brooks, Clem and Jeff Manza, “Class Politics and Political Change in the United States, 1952-1992,” Social forces, Dec. 1997 v. 76, no. 2, pp 379-409.
18 Nardulli, Peter F., Jon K. Dalager and Donald E. Greco, “Voter Turnout in U.S. Presidential Elections: An Historical View and Some Speculation,” Political Science and Politics, September, 1996 vol. 29, no. 3 pp 480-491.
19 “Hispanic Voters,” Migration World Magazine, September 2000, vol 28 issue 5, p. 12.
20 “The Mad Grab for Latino Votes,” Business Week, April 10, 2000, issue 3676, p. 155.
21 Davidson, Chandler and Bernard Grofman, eds., Quiet Revolution in the South: The Impact of the Voting Rights Act, 1965-1990, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994).
22 Richard L. Cole, Citizen Participation and the Urban Policy Process (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1974), 12-14.
23 Ibid., 14.
24 Walter A. Rosenbaum, “Public Involvement as Reform and Ritual,” in Stuart Langton, ed., Citizen Participation in America (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1978), p. 84.
25 Jeffrey M. Berry, Kent E. Portney, and Ken Thomson, The Rebirth of Urban Democracy(Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1993), 34-38.
26 Michael Lipsky, Protest in City Politics: Rent Strikes, Housing, and the Power of the Poor (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1969).
27 Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward, Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977).
28 Saul D. Alinsky, Reveille for Radicals (New York: Vintage Books, 1969). See also his biography by Sanford D. Horwitt, Let Them Call Me Rebel: Saul Alinsky, His Life and Legacy (New York: Knopf, 1989).
29 Harry C. Boyte, “The Growth of Citizen Politics: Stages in Local Community Organizing,” Dissent 37(4) (1990): 513-518.
30 Robert Fisher, Let the People Decide: Neighborhood Organizing in America (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1994); Harry C. Boyte, The Backyard Revolution: Understanding the New Citizens’ Movement (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980).
31 Boyte, The Backyard Revolution, 7.
32 Harry C. Boyte and Frank Riessman, eds., The New Populism: The Politics of Empowerment (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986).
33 For a discussion of the various organizations under the Alinsky umbrella and how they have evolved, see Donald C. Reitzes and Detrich C. Reitzes, The Alinsky Legacy: Alive and Kicking (Greenwich, Conn.: JAI Press, 1987). For a more personal view on the evolution of Texas IAF, see Mary Beth Rogers, Cold Anger: A Story of Faith and Power Politics (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1991).
There is also a sizable literature on issue-based or constituency-based advocacy groups See Benjamin Marquez, Power and Politics in a Chicano Barrio: A Study of Mobilization Efforts and Community Power in El Paso (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1985) for a Texas-based project. Stephen L. Fisher, ed., Fighting Back in Appalachia: Traditions of Resistance and Change (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993), provides an example outside of Texas. See also Harry C. Boyte, Commonwealth: A Return to Citizen Politics (New York: Free Press, 1989). Gary Delgado, Organizing the Movement: The Roots and Growth of ACORN (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986); Benjamin Marquez, “The Problems of Organizational Maintenance and the League of United Latin American Citizens,” Social Science Journal 28 (1991): 203-225.
34 Fisher, Let the People Decide.
35 Allan J. Ciglet and Burdett A. Loomis, eds., Interest Group Politics, 3rd ed. (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 1991); ACIR, The Transformation in American Politics, chapter 6. For a discussion of the effect of the historical desire of self-governing communities to contemporary America, see John Kincaid, "Federalism and Community in the American Context," Publius: The Journal of Federalism, vol. 20 (Spring 1990), pp. 69-87.
36 Ronald G. Shaiko, "More Bank for the Buck: The New Era of Full-Service Public Interest Organizations," in Interest Group Politics, eds. Cigler and Loomis, pp. 109-110.
37 Anton argues that the control of federal policy-making by the iron triangle--an alliance among Congressional subcommittees, federal agency and affected client group--has been weakened as these new actors participate in coalitions to affect policy outcomes, see Anton, American Federalism, pp. 90-99.
38 Andrew Mollison, "State-level Lobbyists Doubled since '73," Austin American-Statesman (Oct. 27, 1991), p. A11; drawn from the November 1991 issue of Lobbying and Influence Alert.
39 Clive S. Thomas and Ronald J. Hrebenar, "Nationalization of Interest Groups and Lobbying in the States," in Interest Group Politics, eds. Cigler and Loomis, pp. 63-80; ACIR, The Transformation in American Politics, pp. 238-241.
40 Rozell, Mark J. and Clyde Wilcox, Interest Groups in American Campaigns: The New Face of Electioneering (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 1999).
41 John Herbers, "It's the New Activism as Business Primes the Government's Pump," Governing, vol. 1, no. 10 (July 1988), pp. 32-38.
42 ACIR, The Transformation in American Politics, pp. 208-221.
43 Wilson, Robert H., (ed.) Public Policy and Community: Activism and Governance in Texas, (Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1997), pp. Chapter 8..