Introduction: Contentious Politics in the United States: What Role for Political Scientists?
by Maryam Zarnegar Deloffre, Arcadia University and Carrie Booth Walling, Albion College
What role should political scientists play in this current period of contentious politics? We suggest that the role of the political scientist should include safeguarding democratic institutions, promoting civic engagement, advancing shared values of equality and justice, and protecting those at risk of having their rights violated or their freedoms revoked. We suggest that being nonpartisan is not the same as being apolitical. It is possible, as our essayists show, for political scientists to maintain rigorous ethical and intellectual standards of objectivity and nonpartisanship and still engage in applied politics. Indeed, disseminating research about how to improve the functioning of political institutions and preparing citizens to be effective political participants is a core objective of political science.The essays in this symposium share a commitment to campus and community engagement as well as to a common understanding among their authors that there is no conflict between maintaining the intellectual credibility of our discipline and engaging the public sphere. However we choose to engage in this political moment, our action or inaction will communicate the value of political science to addressing the challenges of contemporary society.