Tag Archives: Marc Ambinder

Marc Ambinder on the Limits of Political Science

Political science does not have a good explanation for Sarah Palin, and while it can, in retrospect, apply its theories of candidate selection, it cannot tell us why John McCain believed that he could trust Sarah Palin, or why President Obama was so stubborn about health care. It cannot shed much light on the personality of a president and how presidential personalities effect governing and management. There are typologies, but they are created post-facto and aren’t very satisfying. Historians [however] can locate Sarah Palin fairly easily (as they can Glenn Beck) as the latest in a series of conservative populist candidates that have been revolting against elites from the days of Jacksonian America, but their stories are satisfying because journalists are predisposed to recognize patterns (even where they do not exist) and jump onto a narrative. Historians tend to be closer to journalists in using descriptive, reporting-based analysis, rather than the hard tools of social science, to answer questions.

…I really wish that political scientists spent more time interacting with the people they write about. The lived experience of politics and the academic representation of it often differ.

—Marc Ambinder, “Political Science and Journalism: Some Thoughts”