The future of conservatism, legally speaking

November 18, 2008
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In the aftermath of the Democratic Party’s broad success on Election Day, David Brooks argued last week, “the battle lines have already been drawn in the fight over the future of conservatism.” In her op-ed in yesterday’s National Law Journal, Ann Southworth explains that these rifts extend to lawyers. Drawing on the research she conducted for Lawyers of the Right: Professionalizing the Conservative Coalition, Southworth argues that while “lawyers might be expected to help unite the coalition … class and cultural conflict inhibits cooperation among lawyers for the various constituencies of the conservative alliance. These lawyers are fundamentally divided by social background, values, geography and professional identity.”
Lawyers of the Right, published this month, provides a rich portrait of this diverse group of lawyers who represent conservative and libertarian nonprofit organizations. Featuring insights based on in-depth interviews with more than 70 lawyers, it explores their values and identities and traces the implications of their shared interest in promoting political strategies that give lawyers leading roles.
“It remains to be seen,” Southworth points out, “whether the Republican Party will rebuild a winning coalition and what role lawyers might play in efforts to forge common ground within the party’s ranks.” But, in the midst of what Brooks’s column deemed “darkness at dusk,” her work helps illuminate the possibilities.

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