Political Scientists: “We don’t know nothin'”

Sanders and Trump have taken New Hampshire, which just goes to prove that Political Science is to science what military music is to music. bernturmp

I graduated cum laude with my Political Science degree. I worked on many campaigns (including being a campaign manager for a state representative), was a lobbyist for a while, taught political science, and continue to follow politics while blogging about it. And, like my fellow political scientists, I didn’t see this coming.

I’m not talking about predicting this a month ago. I mean a year ago — when Trump and Sanders started talking about running. Like all the other pundits that cover politics, I thought that these anti-establishment fringe candidates would fade by the time the primary season started.

Here’s what I wrote about Bernie last April:

He doesn’t have a chance of winning. He will only raise a fraction of what Hillary already has in her war chest. He doesn’t look like a President and that New York Jewish agitator vibe won’t help him in the slightest with most of the country. 

And that’s what most other commentators thought, as well. We then said similar things about Trump.

But the world has changed since we studied Poli Sci in college, and in two major ways.

First, Americans are sick and tired of politicians. We’re ready for an outsider — someone who doesn’t base his views on opinion polls and is not afraid to say what we’re thinking but have been told we’re not supposed to. For Democrats, that means talking about income equality, socialism, and social justice. For Republicans, that means embracing racism, sexism, xenophobia, and a mistrust of anyone not rich, white, and male (apparently).

But more importantly, the second factor is the internet, which has changed the way the game is played. The internet is a model of democracy — anyone can start a blog (like me!), spout an opinion, and share an article. Information no longer comes down to us from the gatekeepers — it moves up, often through “viral” posts. The mainstream media, instead of leading public opinion, is often scrambling to catch up.

This is not necessarily a good thing. So much misinformation gets passed around as fact. “I read it on the internet so it must be true” posts skew reality, and people end up believing the most amazing things. And then when the media whose job it is to report  the truth tells you that what you read on the internet is false, people instead disbelieve the media and embrace the comforting lie.

And that has helped Trump.

But the internet has also helped Bernie. He has been able to bypass the normal channels politicians usually follow, get his message out cheaply and easily, and raise lots of money without having to plead with the big donors and corporations that usually finance campaigns.

So this is a fascinating year.

And if anyone tells you that they know what’s going to happen, just remember: Nobody knows nothin’.

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