Democratic government implies that "the people shall rule." This means if it means anything, that public opinion shall found expression in law. The mechanism by which this takes place seems to me to be one of the basic problems of popular government. Democracy without organization is in conceivable and public opinion that is organized is likely to be evanescent and ineffective--a phantom. In a Greek city-state or in a New England town, the determination of the collective will upon a particular problem will occasion no great difficulty. But direct democracy falls down in the face of increasing numbers. The individual man, swallowed up into a sea of highly differentiated human beings, finds it necessary to organize with others of a like mind so that by concerted action they may bend the state to their will. Political parties are one result of this process. But political parties invariably include adherents whose wills are hopelessly at variance upon all but a very few questions. Especially is this true where, as in the United States, a two-party system and tradition exist.
It is this situation which has engendered the pressure group. Within the matrices of the major political parties minor associations are formed which , without regard for party opinion on other matters, carry on agitation for or against projects deemed favorable or prejudicial to their interests. In 1921 Senator LaFollette, Sr., could point to one hundred and twenty-one such national organizations with permanent offices in Washington.
The Anti-Saloon League is one such organization—One—kind—one example of, the “Pressure Group.” It is, or was, in its day, the most powerful. This thesis is an effort to make a closer study of this representative of the pressure group, to analyze its functions and study its activities and operations upon this voting population of our nation. The methods of the Anti-Saloon League are not peculiar to the League but were also used by the Association Against The Prohibition Amendment, the League of Women Voters and innumerable associations interest in influencing legislation. The Anti-Saloon League differs from these other organizations in that it was an alliance or combination of Protestant churches.
Many people conclude from this that the church had no right to engage in politics. Individual persuasion, not legislation, should be the method employed to advance God’s kingdom. The church should confine its attention to the future life and not meddle in mundane matters. Such a view, it seems to me, is of very doubtful validity. Life cannot be rigidly categorized. Business, religion, club life, politics are not so many district entities. They are all parts of a full social personality. The business man does not lay aside his economic philosophy when he considers a political problem. Churchmen do no lay aside their religion when they turn to vote. To protect the state from the influences of church, business, labor, and other such organizations and associations is to leave it a meaningless void.
To say that the members of business organizations or religious organizations shall not take an active part in politics is to say that they shall have no voice in the determinations of the legal arrangements governing their own lives. It is not a sufficient answer to say that their influence should be individual and not corporate. Without organization, in the modern state, the individual is lost and his influence is neglible.
It seems to me that this study of the propaganda of that Anti-Saloon League is worthwhile, for the League is one of the most powerful propaganda machines ever set up in the United State and while not representative of the "very latest" type of propaganda its work from 1893 to 1919 is an excellent example of the work of a "pressure group" and its efforts were typical of all such propaganda dispensing or organizing.