Is the Federalist Society taking aim at Tennessee’s courts? A new poll from “the polling company TM” claims to show that voters in Tennessee are unhappy with their state courts and are ready to demand major changes to the “Tennessee Plan” (the state’s modified version of merit selection with retention elections).
For those who have been following the recent game plan of several of the group’s state chapters, the strategy looks familiar. It’s the same plan – a poll, a white paper from a friendly academic, fancy online videos, and public relations help from the high-priced folks at CRC (known best for pushing the “Swift Boats” story in the 2004 presidential race) – that Federalist Society chapters have deployed most recently in Wisconsin, Missouri, and Kansas. (In 2003, Society members squared off on whether partisan elections or appointments best served their goals.)
Close readers of the polling will note that the Tennessee version now leaves out one key question – do voters have confidence in their state Supreme Court? In certain of the Federalist Society’s previous polls, as in Missouri and Wisconsin, super majorities of voters (68 percent in both states) indicated they were just fine with how things were going and trusted their state Supreme Courts to make rulings on the law, not political beliefs.
Since such affirmations don’t square well with making the case for change, that barometer of public sentiment has been discretely dropped in favor of a series of questions designed to demonstrate that most regular folks don’t know how judicial selection works. This is not news, and certainly not a clarion call for reform. Even in a presidential election year, try getting the most engaged voter to correctly explain the Democratic Party’s “Superdelegate” process, or for that matter the electoral college system.
The push is now on to return Tennessee to the column of states with contestable elections for their Supreme Courts, if this poll is any indicator of the group’s Tennessee agenda. Not surprisingly, the poll does not broach even the mention of some of the ill effects of judicial races in the state’s three southern neighbors (Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia), such as the $13.4 million raised by Alabama’s high court candidates or the multi-million dollar television onslaughts by special interest groups.