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Friday, December 09, 2005

The Conservative Farm System

Another article on the effectiveness of the Federalist Society this week in The Week. The article largely credits the timing of the formation of the Society--Reagan's coming into office and the contemporaneous liberal domination of the law schools--with its success, and cites "networking" as its mechanism for gaining influence. I don't doubt this to be descriptively true in terms of the influence of lawyers in the Society. But I take issue with the article's seeming characterization of the group's self-identification as a "debating society" as pretext.

It is obviously right that membership in the Federalist Society has become a sort of badge of loyalty that makes it a perfect conservative networking tool. And this, likely far more than the effect of the Society in adding to the debate in the law schools, is the reason it raises so many eyebrows in judicial confirmations.

But for the rising generation of lawyers, I think it would be wrong to say that the change the Federalist Society seeks to work in the law schools is but a pretext for its secret ambition to take over the judicial system. The far greater need, in my mind, is not a badge of honor for real conservatives, but a tolerance among our colleagues for our ideas and arguments. That, I think, is only gained in debate.

So it's a two-pronged mission, in a sense. Brute force of getting our guys life tenure is only half the battle. We must still convince people to respect our views. I hope that never gets totally sidelined.


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