The New Liberalism

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10 Νοε 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 8 μήνες)

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Book Summary


The New Liberalism

The Rising Power of Citizen Groups

Jeffrey Berry

Book Summary



Liberalism isn’t dead, but has transformed its concerns from material to post
material values. This transformation has largely taken
place with the help of countless liberal citi
zen groups who espouse post
materialist values and have successfully influenced outcomes
in the political arena.


An in depth content analysis of congressional legislation in three sessions that cover a period of approximately 35 years; a
mentation of the rise and increasing ability of citizen groups, especially liberal ones, to influence outcomes in the politic
al arena.

Flow of

Liberalism is alive and flourishing, even if it has “changed its stripes” (1) over the year

he New Deal period until the 1960s, liberalism, roughly associated with the “old left,” focused primarily on bread and butter

issues (


economic regulations, wages, benefits, etc.). The main lobbying groups

labor unions and trade

reflected this materialist orientation. Then during the 1960s there was a shift toward “quality
life” issues (

environmentalism, consumer protection, good government, and social equality). The dominance of labor unions and
ade associations gave way to citizen groups who “mobilize members, donors, or activists around interests other than their own

vocation or profession” (2). These citizen groups were a direct outgrowth of general discontent present in society during th
The existing political parties failed to effectively incorporate many of society’s most disaffected elements, which led to th
development of mass movements and pockets of violence, placing an enormous strain on the political system and its institutio

t became widely apparent that there was a need to reform American politics

so that the disaffected could participate in
a less confrontational manner” (26). Funding from several “deep pocket” sources, like the Ford Foundation, spurre
d the development
of citizen groups, like the Natural Resources Defense Council, who could channel the electorates’ unanswered concerns into po
Book Summary


outcomes. By the 1980s citizen groups were so firmly entrenched that fiscal conservatives like

Reagan proved
unable to defund them.

Citizen groups are
over represented in Congress. 32 percent of

all testimony at congressional
hearings in 1991 coming from
citizen groups, compared with only 19 percent from corporations and 26 percent f
rom trade associations (table 2
1). Among citizen
groups, liberal citizen groups, roughly associated with the “new left,” consistently outperformed their conservative “new rig
counterparts. One reason is the slew of liberal post
materialist legislatio
n enacted from the 1960s onward (
authorizing statutes for
EPA and OSHA). Such legislation tends to reinforce the development of citizen groups who want to control the direction of ag
behavior: “There is a ‘supply side’ to interest group formatio
n: not only do new groups demand new programs but new programs
demand new groups” (29). Other reasons include their access to technical information that members of Congress want and their

to mobilize large segments of the political community

stered by their inordinate amount of press coverage, which stands at forty
percent for interest groups, two percent for corporations, and 24 percent for trade associations (table 2
2). These numbers lead Berry
to conclude “the press coverage of these issu
es is convincing evidence that citizen groups were central participants in these legislative

they are at the center of debate in Washington over public policy” (24).

More and more legislative initiatives reflect post
materialist concerns with a

liberal twist, which reflects a fundamental shift in
society’s values. In 1963 for instance, 64 percent of congressional hearings were devoted to materialist concerns and only 3
6 percent
of congressional hearings were associated with post
materialist con
cerns. By 1991, the tide had more than turned around, with post
materialist concerns taken up in 71 percent of congressional hearings, compared to 29 percent for materialist concerns. Do t
findings suggest that the traditional liberal agenda has been

subverted? While the new liberal agenda does not conflict head on with
the traditional liberal agenda, it does appear that “over time Congress has come to consider less legislation designed to red
economic inequality, consider fewer bills designed to
raise wages or improve job skills when it does take up such legislation, and pass
a smaller proportion of all these economic inequality bills reaching the agenda stage

It seems likely [that]

as these new liberal
organizations draw attention and resources t
o their causes, there is less energy available for traditional e
conomic equality issues” (56).
In short, “the data collected indicate unequivocally that as the new left grew and grew, the old left was increasingly isolat
ed” (57).

Book Summary


What about the right, old

or new? Why have liberals been so successful? One potential reason is that Democrats controlled Congress
for so long. If this reason is correct, then presumably “the Republican
led 104

Congress, with its revolutionary zeal and sharply
ideological and

partisan outlook, offers the opportunity to test this thesis” (88). Have post
materialist conservatives been more
successful since the Republicans took control?
The answer to this question goes directly to the heart of exactly how much change has
ed as a result of the Republican Revolution

of 1994
According to Berry, unlike liberal citizen groups who developed a myriad
of small but effective organizations, conservative citizen groups were unusually concentrated within the organizational frame
k of
the Christian Coalition and its main personality, Ralph Reed, who proved quite adept at concentrating authority at the top.
But his
organization’s main tactic was to lobby the congressional leadership. When relations soured, its agenda stalled. Oth
er post
conservative citizen groups, like the National Rifle Association, also proved unable to move the congressional agenda in a di
favorable to them. The short answer for why conservative citizen groups didn’t perform better is that
the GOP’s electoral reward for
pushing the conservative agenda would have been minimal at best.

In what sense, then, was the Republican Revolution revolutionary?

Perhaps even though conservative citizen groups didn’t fare so
well during the 104
the i
nfluence of liberal citizen interest groups declined.

Does the evidence support this idea? For sure, there
were elements within the GOP that wanted to subvert the liberal agenda,

of the environmentalists in particular. But if measured as
which side

won the most congressional battles, environmental citizen groups came out ahead on ten out of twelve issues (see table 5
page 113). “Few would have guessed at the outset of the 104

Congress that the biggest winners in that Congress would be the
ironmental lobbies, and the biggest loser would be the Christian Coalition” (114).


The larger picture is that society has shifted toward a post
material orientation that is dominated by liberal interests supported by
citizen gro
ups; liberalism is alive and flourishing.
If citizen groups have been effective in getting Congress to pay attention to post
materialist concerns, then its stands to reason that the business community “has lost some of its preeminence in the congress

process” (61). Indeed, while “business continues to be the most frequent winner” (75) in the battle between interest groups
to get what
they want, “business may not be as strong in Congress as it once was” (76).

Book Summary