(The Return of) Ignatz, by Sam Heldman

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Trial lawyers The Post tells us this morning that John Edwards' association with those dreaded "trial lawyers" will be perilous for him if he runs for President. Here are two things I have to say about that (and should mention before proceeding that I'm not really a "trial lawyer" in the current pop understanding of that phrase, but some of my friends and colleagues are):

1) It is to Edwards' everlasting credit that -- at least so far -- he has done the exact opposite of what most politicians would do, when subjected to such attacks. His response has been "Damn right I'm a trial lawyer, and I'll tell you why." Contrast this to (say for instance) our President, who pretends to be a born-and-bred member of whatever group suits his political needs at the moment. This honesty, perhaps more than anything else, is the reason why Edwards (despite his relative lack of political experience) will make some serious headway.

2) With specific reference to trial lawyers as campaign contributors -- which is the primary topic of the Post article -- the dynamic is much like what I was discussing in my labor day post (just below this one). One thing that trial lawyers and unions have in common -- and the thing that makes them so very scary to Republican operatives -- is that they are some of the few holders of large pots of money whose interests are aligned with the great majority of people in this country, who don't have large pots of money. You can say all day long that this alignment of interests is not perfect -- and you're right, the alignment is not perfect, but it's plenty close to scare the Republicans. Trial lawyers make their money by deterring large corporations from harming people (physically and economically). So is it any wonder that the Republicans, which is largely the party of the corporations, vilify trial lawyers and call their money tainted and accuse them of causing the downfall of the culture? And why should you believe it, unless you are the head of an insurance company? If you want to engage in a reasonable debate over whether medical malpractice awards should be capped, that's fine; reasonable minds might differ on that. But as soon as someone avoids that sort of rational argument and says (as one Republican operative said to the Post) that trial lawyers are the ones who are "screwing the little guy", then we know that we are in the land of corporate spin.

posted by sam 7:30 AM 0 comments


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