We've been thinking about this one for awhile. If you've been reading for the last couple of months, you no doubt read our posted notes from Rove's visit to our hometown.
Dubbed The Architect, Rove is pretty much either loved or hated--with no middle ground--depending on your political persuasion. But even Democrats grudgingly admit that he is good at what he does, referring to him as an evil genius.
To our mind, there are two things that separate him from other social scientists--specifically political scientists. We have taken lots of classes from lots of different social scientists. We've attended conferences with them and TA'd for them and read articles by them and watched them comment on TV and on and on.
Obviously, there are lots of other smart poly sci guys--lots of other intelligent political consultants. But Karl Rove is arguably the most influential (according to the Telegraph, he's #1) and successful of his breed for two specific reasons: 1. he is an incredibly able communicator/teacher and 2. he is not condescending.
We watch a lot of political coverage on TV and we read countless articles a day--the point is, Rove is by far the best at explaining sometimes complex and nuanced concepts. No one else, really, comes close. And we suspect that he could explain complex things to anyone who took the time to listen to him. This is rare. We have listened to pundits explain things we already understand and thought, "they just made that even more difficult and complex than it already was." We never think that listening to Rove.
The second thing--not being arrogant or condescending--is of equal importance. This seems to be the cardinal sin of academics--especially social scientists and especially political scientists. Their know-it-alledness just bleeds into everything they teach and say and it is incredibly off putting. They may very well have all the answer to the world's problems, but no one is going to listen to them if they present it in an arrogant manner.
This is part of the reason Rove is so persuasive, he comes off as an average guy. And he is anything but average. This is a talent we wish we had: the ability to first understand and then explain for the average or casual observer, complex and nuanced concepts.
*UPDATE 14 May 12:52am MST: Karl Rove on John McCain in the Wall Street Journal. The more we learn about John McCain, the better we like him.
Can anyone say that about Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?
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