When I was a young lawyer and an avid Democrat, I was just thrilled that Bill Clinton and his wife were both lawyers. It seemed to vindicate my career decision. As I’ve become less enthralled with being a lawyer, and as the lawyer politicians have proven adept at parsing the truth (“it depends what ‘is’ means”), I’m a little less excited about the professional affinity I share with the Clintons and the Obamas.
One thing I never realized, though, is that I share a professional affinity, not just with those two power pairs, but with just about every major Democratic politician there is:
The Democratic Party has become the Lawyers’ Party. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are lawyers. Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama are lawyers. John Edwards, the other former Democrat candidate for president, is a lawyer and so is his wife Elizabeth. Every Democrat nominee since 1984 went to law school (although Gore did not graduate.) Every Democrat vice presidential nominee since 1976, except for Lloyd Benson, went to law school. Look at the Democrat Party in Congress: the Majority Leader in each house is a lawyer.
The Republican Party is different. President Bush and Vice President Cheney were not lawyers, but businessmen. The leaders of the Republican Revolution were not lawyers. Newt Gingrich was a history professor; Tom Delay was an exterminator; and Dick Armey was an economist. House Minority Leader Boehner was a plastic manufacturer, not a lawyer. The former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is a heart surgeon.
This is not just an interesting coincidence. It tells one something about the abilities and belief systems that animate these office-seekers:
Who was the last Republican president who was a lawyer? Gerald Ford, who left office thirty-one years ago and who barely won the Republican nomination as a sitting president, running against Ronald Reagan in 1976. The Republican Party is made up of real people doing real work. The Democratic Party is made up of lawyers. Democrats mock and scorn men who create wealth, like Bush and Cheney, or who heal the sick like Frist, or who immerse themselves in history like Gingrich.
The Lawyers’ Party sees these sorts of people, who provide goods and services that people want, as the enemies of America. And so we have seen the procession of official enemies in the eyes of the Lawyers’ Party grow. Against whom do Hillary and Obama rail? Pharmaceutical companies, oil companies, hospitals, manufacturers, fast food restaurant chains, large retail businesses, bankers and anyone producing anything of value in our nation.
This is the natural consequence of viewing everything through the eyes of lawyers. Lawyers solve problems by successfully representing their clients, in this case the American people. Lawyers seek to have new laws passed, they seek to win lawsuits, they press appellate courts to overturn precedent, and lawyers always parse language to favor their side.
Confined to the narrow practice of law, that is fine. But it is an awful way to govern a great nation. When politicians as lawyers begin to view some Americans as clients and other Americans as opposing parties, then the role of the legal system in our life becomes all consuming. Some Americans become “adverse parties” of our very government. We are not all litigants in some vast social class action suit. We are citizens of a republic which promises us a great deal of freedom from laws, from courts, and from lawyers. (Emphasis mine.)
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