Political scientists aren’t going to like this book, because it portrays politics as it is actually lived by the candidates, their staff and the press, which is to say — a messy, sweaty, ugly, arduous competition between flawed human beings — a universe away from numbers and probabilities and theories.He then refutes the widely held assumptions about what political scientists care about or like:
Back to Ambinder. If anything, I just find his comment, well, sort of lazy. Can’t we move beyond these stereotypes of academia? I read Ambinder every day, and take his reporting and commentary seriously. I don’t think it’s asking too much of him to look for a little value in political science.
I don't entirely disagree, but it is important to ask ourselves why such views are so prevalent. Stephen Walt recently wrote about political scientists blogging, and he had one observation that I found very compelling:
It would be good for the IR field if academic scholars were expected to write a few blog posts every now and then, if only for the purpose of self-examination. If the typical academic had to write a blog for two weeks, they might discover they had nothing to say to their fellow citizens, couldn't say it clearly, or that nobody cared. That experience might even lead a few of my fellow academics to scratch their heads and ask if they were investing their research time appropriately, which would be all to the good.
We have a strong tendency to argue that misrepresentation of political science is everyone else's fault. Instead, we should ask ourselves why that misrepresentation is occurring, and what we can do to correct it. Otherwise we will end up with more efforts to cut our grant funding or the like.
On the other hand, my impression is that this political science/society divide is more extreme at the national level (e.g. members of Congress, national journalists, etc.). My department has extensive local contacts (indeed, the chair of the County Board of Commissioners has often taught courses in political science and international studies) and I don't recall any stories about how we were irrelevant or ivory towerish.