[Ann Southworth, guest-blogging, January 30, 2009 at 1:16pm] Trackbacks
Lawyer Networks:

Both the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation attempt to appeal to all strands of the conservative alliance and to unify and mobilize lawyers for conservative and libertarian causes. Heritage pushes lawyers (and other advocates) to find ways to contribute to the mutual success of the organizations they serve. The Federalist Society does not directly advocate cooperation on policy objectives, but it indirectly contributes toward that goal by engaging conservatives and libertarians in conversation and debate.

Do these organizations help to integrate the conservative coalition? If so, how effective are they?

The lawyers I interviewed for my book offered mixed assessments. They suggested that these organizations reach more deeply into some strands of the coalition than others. A religious conservative reported that Heritage meetings draw fewer social conservatives than libertarians. More than half of the interviewed lawyers said that they were active in the Federalist Society, but lawyers associated with libertarian and mediator organizations were much more likely than social conservatives or business advocates to participate.

On the other hand, an analysis of the communication network of the interviewed lawyers lends support to the idea that those organizations promote communication across constituencies. The network was divided by constituency, with lawyers in distinct parts of the network communicating very little with each other. In the core of the network, however, were seven lawyers who communicated with many other lawyers. Their central position in the network suggested they might help to link divided constituencies. All lawyers in the core were active participants in the Federalist Society. Although I did not have complete data about participation in Heritage Foundation meetings, four lawyers in the core indicated that they regularly participated in those meetings as well.

Is it true, as one lawyer told me, that the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society serve as the "crossroads of the conservative movement"? To what extent do they manage to promote understanding and cooperation within the coalition?