They’re not politicians, so they shouldn’t act like them.
OF ALL the ways in which America is exceptional, its practice of electing judges is one of the least obvious and most striking. The spectacle of someone who has the power to hand out death sentences making stump speeches, seeking endorsements and raising funds has long seemed odd to outsiders. Alexis de Tocqueville, whose travels around the country coincided with the spread of judicial elections, predicted that “these innovations will, sooner or later, have disastrous results.” It is a view shared by many of the judges running for office around the country.
Judicial elections are becoming a lot like any other. Tennessee’s recent race was a good example. A few days before the poll Gary Wade, the chief justice on the state’s Supreme Court, sat in his office, a room enlivened by a bearskin rug on the floor, complete with paws and snarling mouth. Mr Wade had faced the voters five times before, but this election was the first time he had to do any actual campaigning. Tennessee’s race became unexpectedly political: the three judges up for retention were hit with adverts denouncing them as Obamacare-loving liberals, though their court has never ruled on the subject. The judges responded by raising over $1m to buy adverts of their own.