Chief Umpire Rove

More

There's been so much talk of "balls and strikes" at today's Senate hearing that one could be forgiven for imagining that Sonia Sotomayor is auditioning to lead an umpiring crew for Major League Baseball, and not to join the Supreme Court. At his 2005 confirmation hearings, current chief justice John Roberts also talked a lot about "balls and strikes." What gives? And who's responsible for the annoying judges-as-umpires meme? The answer, I believe, is Karl Rove. As I learned while reporting this piece on Rove's history of dirty tricks, one way that Rove flipped the Alabama Supreme Court from being mostly Democratic to mostly Republican (in Alabama judges are elected) is by propagating the notion that judges ought to be like umpires--i.e., limited to rendering impartial (non-empathetic?) judgment. When Rove showed up in Alabama in the early 1990s, the trial bar dominated the political landscape. His pleasingly simple and easy to grasp "umpires" formulation resonated deeply, and in short order Republicans came to dominate. In fact, they still do. (Sadly for Karl, it's probably the nearest he'll ever get to his "permanent majority.")
 
There was a time before the GOP collapsed, when people automatically assumed Rove was behind everything. Today, he can't get credit for anything. So in the spirit of calling 'em like I see 'em, let's pause to acknowledge Rove's achievement. It's so great that the Democrats have stolen it!

Jump to comments
Presented by

Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In