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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Republican America vs. Conservative "Legal Talent"

Today's news about Romney's withdrawal from the presidential race reminds me of this earlier post on the VC, which noted the large number of prominent conservative lawyers, both academics and cause-oriented lawyers in public and quasi-public positions, who had supported Romney.  It also noted that a substantial number of prominent conservative lawyers, including a number of VC contributors, had been Thompson supporters. 

Why did so many of these right-leaning legal talents bet on the wrong horse?  We could draw a number of conclusions from this, ranging from the laudatory (they're principled, and supported their favorite candidate regardless of his chances of winning the nomination), to the practical (they're conservative establishmentarians who ultimately supported candidates who were likely to maintain the whole profitable infrastructure -- i.e., anyone but McCain), to the less complimentary (they're lousy at politics!).

I think some measure of all three guesses is probably right, although I suspect the first two reasons are the most likely in most cases.  But the lesson I really would like to take away, and I think it's accurate, is this: conservative legal academics are no more representative of the views or sensibilities of "regular Americans," whatever they may be, than liberal legal academics are.  The legal academy may be increasingly politically diverse, but it is no more representative than it ever has been.

Some caveats apply.  A number of the VC crew actually swung their support to McCain, so I am hardly saying that every conservative legal talent supported losing candidates.  I am also not making any normative statement about which candidate one ought to support, in either party.  And I would note that although the liberal legal establishment probably mostly swung to Obama or Clinton this time around, and thus wasn't out of the popular Democratic "mainstream," their choices were easier than those facing the Republicans.  (And Prawfs still had a Biden supporter!)  I still think my boldfaced conclusion is about right, though.            

Posted by Paul Horwitz on February 7, 2008 at 01:49 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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Where can I find a copy of the speech that Matt Romney made today when he bowed out of the race?

Posted by: Ellen | Feb 7, 2008 10:38:00 PM

"Why did so many of these right-leaning legal talents bet on the wrong horse?"

I don't think supporting a candidate is really much like betting on a horse. If I were betting on who will win, I'd defer to the Intrade markets. But that's not how I'd choose whom to support.

Posted by: Chris | Feb 7, 2008 2:10:04 PM

I'm still going with the theory that individuals are smart, people are stupid. And I miss Fred.

Posted by: Blatt | Feb 7, 2008 2:06:50 PM

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