The key result of Bartels' analysis was that "senators...were vastly more responsive to affluent constituents than to constituents of modest means" (Bartels: 253). We can see this in elected officials voting or acting with obligation to donors and not necessarily to the average citizen, and in the pervasive nature of elite influence through social ties (Domhoff). While this seems explicitly undemocratic, one could argue the problems with this political inequality can be mitigated by the groups working on specific issues who might better represent citizen concerns. In his discussion of the effect of public opinion on policy, Burstein reports that his "results are consistent with the possibility that interest organizations and parties enhance responsiveness rather than reducing it" (Burstein: 35). Additionally, Cigler and Loomis posit that as political parties have weakened, interest groups have expanded in number and magnified their influence - a notion that also supports such an argument.
An important questions remains - are organizations whose missions reflect an explicit purpose in representing the under-represented helping to mitigate this inequality? Dr. Strovolitch identifies the ways in which these organizations may in fact do the opposite. An example she provides is that of the field organizer at a women's organization who in discussing organizational support for affirmative action, remarked that women on welfare "don't go to college, but that's a smaller and smaller set of people" (Strovolitch: 12). Regarding welfare reform (which the author categorizes as a disadvantaged-subgroup issue), this same woman admitted they were not as active as they were on other issues. Another respondent reflected an avoidance of seemingly applicable but controversial issues that might disturb their base of support.
Strovolitch's findings serve as a potent defense against the idea that interest groups are filling the representational void. If the tendency is for organizations to drift toward majority and advantaged-subgroup issues, what effect does this have on political inequality? Is this drift a conscious one, or does the political system force their hands? Do you see ways in which interest groups are successful in reducing inequality?