The Democrats who gathered in Charlotte tried to cast themselves as the party of working people, or of struggling middle-class families, or of aggrieved and downtrodden Americans in every corner of the economy. In presidential politics, however, a more accurate designation would identify the Dems as the party of lawyers: with the re-nomination of Obama and Biden, all six available spots on the last three national tickets have gone to working attorneys.
Reaching all the way back to 1980, 14 of 18 Democratic nominations for president and vice president went to members of the bar. The domination of party leadership by the legal profession would have looked even more lopsided had Al Gore managed to complete his studies at Vanderbilt Law School before capturing (at age 28) the congressional seat once held by his lawyer father. Gore’s mother also worked as a powerful attorney, serving as managing partner of a major Washington firm after her husband, Al Gore Sr., lost a reelection bid to the U.S. Senate in 1970.
Through nine consecutive presidential elections, this means that only one Democratic nominee for president or vice president—peanut farmer and Navy officer Jimmy Carter—never attended law school, nor enjoyed deep familial connections to the legal profession.
Those familial connections have also extended to spouses of the Democratic nominees. Michelle Obama, who delivered a rapturously received address to the Charlotte convention, was of course a lavishly successful corporate attorney before she moved into the White House, as was the last Democratic First Lady, Hillary Clinton. Vice presidential nominee John Edwards met his wife, the late Elizabeth Edwards, in law school at North Carolina and during the early years of their marriage she enjoyed far more conspicuous success in her practice of law than he did.
Some observers might protest that the disproportionate involvement of attorneys in electoral politics hardly counts as novel in our time or unique to the Democratic Party, since many of the nation’s founding fathers—including Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton—worked proudly and prominently as lawyers.