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Dems Hustled on Tort Reform?

Stephanie Mencimer's thought-provoking article, "Class Action Warfare: Why
Are So Many Democrats Voting Against Their Own Interests?
" in American Prospect addresses the wrongheadedness of many Democrats caving in to the GOP on tort reform. Mencimer quotes Pamela Gilbert, a former executive director of the Consumer Products Safety Commission during the Clinton administration on the huge investment behind the tort reform propaganda campaign:

It’s the result of 30 years and hundreds of millions of dollars by the business community to convince people that tort reform is right...The public is beginning to believe that we have too many lawsuits and the people to blame are the ones suing, not the wrongdoers. The Democrats who vote for tort reform should know better.

Interestingly, even after such a large and sustained investment in pro-tort reform propaganda, just 50 percent of Americans support President Bush's proposal to put a $250,000 cap on jury awards for pain and suffering, while 42 percent oppose the caps, according to the most recent poll on the topic, conducted conducted by the Los Angeles Times 1/15-17

Mencimer notes that Kerry and even Edwards, one of the best legal advocates for consumers in lawsuits, caved on the issue, though it meant lending legitimacy to the GOP's bogus argument that lawyers were primarilly responsible for the nation's health care crisis. Notes Mencimer:

In putting himself and Edwards on record as tort-reform supporters, Kerry was explicitly endorsing the conventional wisdom put forth by George W. Bush and his business backers that Americans are too litigious, that too many frivolous lawsuits are driving doctors out of business, and that lawsuits are hindering America’s economic progress. By embracing the term “tort reform,” Kerry was agreeing that Americans need to have their legal rights restricted, a view quite at odds with most of the core values traditionally expressed by Democrats, who like to campaign on their support of “the people, not the powerful.”

Mencimer argues that a spirited defense of consumers' right to litigate against coporate abuse would have served Kerry-Edwards better. As Mencimer points out, not all Democratic candidates rolled over for the GOP propaganda juggernaut. Those who stood firm for the rights of consumers may find themselves in a stronger position in future campaigns.