February 18, 2005
Dazed and confusedBy Thomas Lifson
I find myself stunned by the magnitude of the quick victory President Bush has won on tort reform, with the new bill, now awaiting his signature federalizing most class action lawsuits. No longer will judges and juries in obscure rural counties of Illinois, Mississippi and Alabama be able to award hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars to nebulous classes of supposedly injured consumers or shareholders, at the expense of productive corporations, on the thinnest of evidence. Instead , the federal judiciary, which used to be so beloved of the Democrats when it was intervening in Southern elections, will apply uniform rules to cases of national scope, under the supervision of judges who earned their place on the bench with Senate confirmation, whenever $5 million or more in damages is sought in a class action case.
Within the first month of his second term, this long—sought goal is accomplished by President Bush, with no heavy breathing, much less muscle strain. An epic battle is won with scarcely a casualty. The tort bar is vanquished. There are still more items to address in reducing the toll this vastly wealthy interest group exacts from the wealth—producing sector of the economy, but this is a major step forward.
Keep in mind that class action litigators, with their billions a year appropriated from wealth—producers, are a key element of the Democratic Party financial base. Nobody is going to be moving from Persian—carpeted suites in high rises into the poorhouse in the next few months, but the prospect of multi—billion dollar class action settlements replenishing the ample coffers of predatory law firms is diminished, which means that future "investments" in Democrat contributions will be less generous.
The end came quickly because the old means of obstructionism no longer work very well. Short of a Senate filibuster, the Democrats are unable to prevent legislation attacking obviously self—serving�interest groups from passing both chambers of Congress. Who among them is going to stand—up for the right of law firms to earn millions or billions in cash, while sending discount coupons or checks for 33 cents (which need a 37 cent stamp to be applied—for) to the supposed 'beneficiaries' of their legal action?
The meme of an obstructionist, special interest—protecting Democratic Party is fully established in the public mind. Democrats are on the defensive against it. The MSM's ability to bottle—up coverage of embarrassing positions is shattered. Defending the outrageous can be no longer accomplished in private. The old order of battle, in which GOP forces could always be outflanked by a combination of stealth— and publicity—reliant forces of the left is gone, replaced by robust Congressional majorities and battalions of nimble fact—checking bloggers feeding information to the heavy artillery of Fox News Channel, talk radio hosts, and those members of the MSM unwilling to look foolish by studiously ignoring stories which are being talked about at the water coolers, diners, bars, and family get—togethers of America.
Not—so—slowly, but surely, Karl Rove's vision of a vanquished Democratic Party is being realized. The Democrats, meanwhile, do not seem to know what has hit them. Like stoners searching for their cars, they are dazed and confused by the realities of Twenty—First Century politics.
Their inability even to slow down the passage of a bill devastating for one of their core constituencies is sending a loud message to other members of the band of special interests which comprise the bulk of today's Democratic Party. The abortion advocates, noticing a sudden willingness of certain Democrats to welcome the voices of those with qualms about unlimited access to fetus—killing, have got to be worried. Labor unions, with their continuously—shrinking share of the labor force, and dependent on federal legislation for their ability to require such members as remain to fork over monthly tribute in the form of 'dues' (most of which are now spent on political contributions, not on representing workers in the bargaining process), must be wondering if they are next.� Why bother raising and donating tens of millions of dollars every year if it buys you no protection? That money might�be better spent on organizing efforts.
There is one force at hand to replace the money of the old—fashioned interest groups: the internet—powered loony left, currently backing new DNC Chairman Howard Dean. The grown—ups among the Dems can take no comfort from this prospect, though. Dean, himself, is a spotlight—loving loose cannon, who has already made himself look mean and foolish with a racially—tinged remark intended to disparage the GOP as the party of white guys, but which also rests on an image of blacks as bellboys, chambermaids, and janitors. The culture of taking offense at such casual bigotry is well—enough established that there is a price to pay for such reckless stereotyping.
Coming from lily—white Vermont, and veteran of an unsuccessful presidential campaign notable for its absence of blacks in any meaningful roles, there is no reason for Dean to have developed the instincts necessary to cover—up a condescending view of minorities as victims who need the help of patricians born and bred in Park Avenue triplexes. Dean is a quick study, so maybe he will develop skills in this realm, overcoming the training and experience of a lifetime. But his mass of followers are another matter entirely. They are committed to a mindless oppositionism, and the politics of self—expression as a remedy to their own dissatisfactions in life.
The anti—war left are a fickle lot. Fuelled by anger, knowing what they are against but not in agreement on what they are for, they can provide a decent niche audience for Air America radio broadcasts, put Michael Moore on the best—seller lists, and generate many tens of millions of dollars in internet donations. But they can never win elections in a nation where troops returning home from Iraq are regularly applauded in airports. Their commitment to a vision of Amerika—the—evil will never win a majority outside the municipal boundaries of Berkeley, Cambridge, Madison, Ann Arbor, and a few other lefty havens. They are repellant to far more voters than they can ever attract.
African—Americans, who provide roughly one—fourth of the national vote for Democrats, are meanwhile watching Condoleeza Rice perform as the most accomplished Secretary of State in at least a century, while being subjected to overtly racist mockery by white leftists among the Democrats. Attacking a Clarence Thomas or even a Colin Powell as sellouts is one thing. Attacking a powerful, brilliant, and superbly accomplished multi—dimensional black woman is quite another. Condoleeza Rice is the embodiment an ethic of working harder and being better which has particular appeal to African—Americans, but which is quite universal. What mother does not dream such dreams for her progeny?� Sociologists long ago noted that women are the bedrock of the African—American community. No one who wishes to influence that community can trample upon their dreams for very long and retain influence.
In his first term, President Bush appointed African Americans and Hispanics to powerful positions never before open to members of these groups. In his second term, he is upping the ante. The message is getting through. Actions speak louder than the words of a Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or a Charlie Rangel. The GOP share of the black vote went from 8% to 11%. Three incremental points may not be that impressive, but it is a 37.5% increase in the share previously won. The fluid which seeps out of the first cracks in a dam is not that impressive a volume of water, either. But if the cracks are not rapidly stanched, they�quickly grow. Such a prospect of a widening rift in the voting patterns of black Americans is not unrealistic, given the disarray of today's Democrats.
Over a year ago, I wrote�that
By reputation, the President was a very avid and skillful poker player when he was an MBA student. One of the secrets of a successful poker player is to encourage your opponent to bet a lot of chips on a losing hand.� This is a pattern of behavior one sees repeatedly in George W. Bush's political career.
The political poker game being played by the President and his team did not end with the election of 2004. His father spoke of a 'vision thing.' The current President Bush is not so much given to talking as to doing. Make no mistake, the Democrats have made a series of sucker bets, and they are in the process of losing far more than they yet realize.
Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker.