A nice column by John Fitzgibbon a lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Canterbury Christ Church University.
He rightly says political scientists should wake up and make their statement. We are in a world where understanding politics is critical to figuring what is happening around the world:
Many sections in the media argued at the time that Romney’s clear victory in that debate gave him the necessary “momentum” to win the Presidency. In contrast political science research unquestionably proves that Presidential debates mostly, though very occasionally, do not have a decisive impact on the outcome of Presidential elections. It is more correct to say that long-term and institutional factors are the most influential in determining who wins the White House. The superb Monkey Cage blog (run by political scientists) points out that a lack of appreciation for polls from the media leads to election coverage focusing on outlier polls rather than on the general trend. An obsession with polls distracts from the more relevant policy positions of the respective candidates. It is telling that Romney managed to proceed through the entire race without detailing his budget plans. Or that Obama was never pushed to answer how he intended to negotiate with Congress to resolve the ‘fiscal cliff’.
Political scientists can help understand today’s complex environment. Economics alone is not enough..
Beyond this recent focus on polling versus punditry, there is the more serious matter of political coverage almost wholly ignoring the critical role structural and institutional factors play in constraining the range of policy options available to political actors. This appears to be a self-interested ‘look at us’ call from a political scientist but I strongly believe that it is an important point. Belief in political systems is declining rapidly in Western countries. An information environment that ascribes economic and social failures singularly to individual political actors despite their influence being negligible due to structural issues, promotes public cynicism over comprehension of the political system.
A specific example of this is the highly complex negotiation process involving the creditor and debtor member states, the ECB and European Commission. In this exchange (at 7:22) between an Irish ‘pop’ economist and a Professor of politics at University College Dublin, the economist argues that Ireland’s political leaders have failed to secure the best deal for Ireland through their sycophantism to Germany. Therefore, they must use the nuclear option of threatening to not pay bonds due on bailed out Irish banks. The political scientist counters that small states cannot negotiate in zero-sum terms, empirical research clearly details that small states who bluff get called out and lose. Demanding that participation in the consociational system of EU level negotiations be replaced by a poker playing strategy is not only a flawed argument but places unrealistic expectations on Irish political leaders. A rigid focus on economics that ignores the political system of the EU fails to explain why the Euroscrisis has not yet been resolved. The point is repeatedly made that only a political settlement can end our current economic malaise but attempts to explain how that may come about from a political science perspective are thin on the ground.
Bring both economics and politics in…Makes the discussion all the more exciting and enriching..