The Lawyers Party
There's a vicious cycle in America: politicians make up onerous laws and regulations, and lawyers get rich exploiting them. But the situation is even worse when the politicians are the lawyers -- or in other words, the Democratic Party.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with lawyers or the legal profession. Lawyers like Coolidge, Cleveland, Lincoln, Monroe, Madison, Jefferson, and John Quincy Adams have been some of the most principled presidents in our nation's history. If conservatives want a system of laws and not of men, then lawyers are an indispensable part of that system.
No, it is not the presence of lawyers in politics which bedevils us today; it is, instead, the iron control which lawyers have on the Democratic Party and the concomitant eagerness of Democrats to produce a vast labyrinth of laws, regulations, and court decisions intended to govern every aspect of American life.
There has always been an inherent conflict in having those who live by wading clients through the complexity of laws and regulations also hold offices which determine the complexity of laws and regulations. Obama, who in 2009 suggested that doctors perform unnecessary surgery to make money, surely grasps this tension.
There is also a latent constitutional issue with having practicing attorneys, "officers of the court," or the judicial branch of government be also officers of the other branches of government. This is not always an esoteric distinction: Clinton was disbarred by a federal judge for lying in his deposition, a sanction which could not be imposed upon a citizen who is not de jure a member of the federal judiciary.
Lawyers have always been overrepresented in the presidency. Seven of the sixteen Republican presidents have been lawyers: Lincoln, Hayes, Harrison, McKinley, Taft, Coolidge, and Nixon. Nine of the fifteen Democrat presidents have been lawyers: Jackson, Van Buren, Polk, Pierce, Cleveland, Wilson, FDR, Clinton, and Obama.
But more and more the Democratic Party has been led by lawyers -- and, at that, lawyers who are deeply mired in the legal profession. Bill Clinton was not just Arkansas attorney general but he was also a professor of law at the University of Arkansas. Hillary was a full partner in the Rose Law Firm. Obama lectured at the University of Chicago on constitutional law; Michelle Obama also practiced law. Vice President Biden is a lawyer.
In the last few decades, the Democratic Party has placed on its national ticket almost exclusively candidates who have gone to law school. In fact, since 1972, only three candidates who have not gone to law school have been on the top or the bottom of the Democrat ticket: McGovern (1972), Carter (1976 and 1980), and Benson (1988). In stark contrast, every Republican ticket since 1980 has had at least one candidate who did not go to law school on the ticket: Reagan (1980 and 1984), George H. Bush (1980, 1984, 1988, and 1992), Kemp (1996), George W. Bush (2000 and 2004), and Palin (2008).
In 2008, all of the serious candidates for the Democrat nomination -- Obama, Clinton, and Edwards -- were lawyers, while there were serious candidates for the Republican nomination, like Huckabee and Paul, who never set foot in law school. This year, of course, there are no serious non-lawyers seeking the Democrat nomination, but several serious Republican candidates, like Cain, Gingrich, and Paul, were not lawyers.
The near-monopoly of lawyers at the top of the Democratic Party helps explain the highly theoretical and profoundly impractical nature of Democrat policy. Even Republican lawyers who went to law school, like Romney or Cheney, ran businesses and had to make payrolls and comply with federal business regulations. Democrats on the national ticket in the last few decades have all been lawyers or lifelong politicians (like Nancy Pelosi, the child of a Democrat dynasty) or both.
This overrepresentation of lawyers in the Democratic Party extends to the Senate, where 66% of Senate Democrats are lawyers, compared to 45% of Senate Republicans. The top five Democrat leadership positions in the Senate are held by lawyers: Biden, Inouye, Reid, Durbin, and Schumer. Two of the four Republican Senate leaders, McConnell and Kyl, are lawyers, while the other two, Barasso and Thune, are not.
In the House of Representatives, only one Democrat leader -- Hoyer -- is a lawyer compared to two of the five Republicans who are lawyers -- Cantor and Hensarling. But the overall composition of House Democrats to House Republicans shows the same tilt towards lawyers: 42% of House Democrats are lawyers, while 28% of House Republicans are lawyers. The pattern persists at the state government level. While 43% of Republican governors are lawyers, 55% of Democrat governors are lawyers.
The Lawyers Party four years ago is the Lawyers Party still. It is also a party with an increasingly distant connection to the real world. Republicans, if they are smart, will make that a theme of the 2012 election.