Political Scientist or Politician: Why Not Be Both?
by David Redlawsk, University of Delaware
Political scientists are supposed to be “scientists” which for many academics suggests standing apart from the political fray in order to study it with a supposedly neutral eye. Getting directly involved in partisan politics would seem to be a risky, potentially biasing proposition. In this article I describe my own experience balancing politics and political science, while building what seems to have been a reasonably successful career as a political scientist. I was a local elected official as a grad student, and a county party leader while on the University of Iowa faculty. My activity in the political world fed directly into my teaching and research, opening up opportunities for students, and providing me with ideas that became the core of several of my published articles and books. Navigating this path can be tricky when teaching, especially when involved in partisan politics. I approached it by developing connections in both major parties, being transparent with my students, and supporting their efforts to become politically engaged no matter the party. As a researcher, I believe that having been involved in campaigns, campaign finance, and governing, improved my ability to make the needed connections between the theory and practice of politics.