Monday, March 17, 2008

On Democracy

The Lawyer Party - The Democratic Party is a party of- and for - lawyers

"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."

"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."

The effect of lawyerdom are pervasive and perverse. Lawyers should not be seen as synonymous with the rule of law. Lawyers seek to change the plain language of law to make themselves indespensible, they parse words and pursue results that have no bearing on justice or common sense.

Domestic governance is not the only thing harmed by the rise of lawyerdom. Perry de Havilland sums it up neatly:

"There is a powerful strain of thought in the United States which sees the world as essentially capable of reduction to a series of legal processes, and more specifically American legal processes. Acts of war by foreigners are seen as 'crimes', legal infractions, rather than acts of war, and anything that happens anywhere can be a source of legal action (and income) for American lawyers." - Perry de Havilland


Why US is the great democracy

"Many Australians believe they know all about America. On business trips they sidle through the galleries of New York, or amble down the boulevards of Los Angeles, and imagine that they have gained some essential insight into the American character. Back home they watch American TV and movies, and teach themselves that American society is gaudy, individualistic and lacking in decorum. "

"On the whole, though, most Australians' knowledge of American politics remains limited to a series of crude, child-like stereotypes of the type another generation may have attributed to deepest, darkest Africa."

One thing I have pointed out to foreign friends repeatedly is that TV and movies are FICTION. Watching American TV gives no more insight into America than watching Fawlty Towers gives into life in Britain. The real lives and routine of Americans is not entertaining. Violence, conflict, hot juicy scandal, car chases, torrid romances, offbeat charactors are interesting precisely because almost no one actually experiences these things in real life.

Hollywood isn't America, nor really American. Hollywood movies are designed to appeal to a worldwide audience. Explosions and special effects appeal to everyone from Minnisota to Tanzania to Hong Kong. Hollywood is populated by people from all over the world. Austrian (or Australian, German, Canadian, British, French, Chinese, Italian... etc etc) actors, Dutch directors, Spanish producers, Japanese technicians, French money. There is nothing quinessentially American about Hollywood in culture nor in product.

"One of our favourite fictions about the US is that its citizens, disillusioned by a lack of choice, don't bother to vote. And yet Americans vote, up hill and down dale, for everything and everybody that moves. For school boards, for precinct committees, for police chiefs, for judges, for district attorneys. "


"In the early 1800s, the French observer Alexis de Tocqueville -- who never settled for the business traveller itinerary, or confused a gallery tour with a social insight -- investigated the American predilection for local political association. As a citizen of a frontier society, Tocqueville observed, an American "learns from birth that he must rely upon himself to combat the ills and obstacles of life". "

"Yet this didn't simply cause Americans to become hardy individualists: it also enforced upon them the importance of friends, neighbours and local community. And so it impelled them outwards as well as inwards, bonding in local associations to form clubs, organise festivities, or provide mutual aid. "

Quoting and understanding de Tocqueville is in my mind on of the esentials of understanding American democracy. Too few Americans do, and foreignors who make the effort are extraordinary.

I have little to add, so I will quote random wisdom of a Founder:

"I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on the objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents." - James Madison

Wish Congress would have remembered that one.