Political Science Meets Politics, Gets Butt Kicked

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Yesterday, the Senate passed an amendment that eliminates the NSF’s $13 million budget for political science research. That’s “13,” as in thirteen, and million with an “M.”

Why? Who knows. Sen. Tom Coburn has been on an anti-political science kick for years for no real discernible reason. “Theories on political behavior,” he said a few years ago, “are best left to CNN, pollsters, pundits, historians, candidates, political parties, and the voters, rather than being funded out of taxpayers’ wallets.” That makes no sense, but that’s his reason, and it’s no surprise that he’s continued his jihad. What is a surprise is that he managed to get a bunch of Democrats to tag along with him on this go-around.

I don’t get it. What’s their motivation? The amount of money is trivial even by demagogue standards (“That’s four cents each and every year from every man, woman, and child in the country!”), and Democrats don’t share Coburn’s generalized know-nothing opposition to expanding the frontiers of human knowledge. So why did they go along? Some kind of logrolling deal? Fear of constituent wrath over continued funding of election surveys? What’s the deal? I thought everyone had pretty much agreed to vote down all the amendments to the continuing resolution and get on with other business.

Politico has nothing on this. I’m disappointed. I want the dirt. There’s got to be a story here of some kind.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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