The top 10 ways to mess with political scientists

Daniel W. Drezner
August 28
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Avielle Watkins, center right, celebrates her newly bestowed master’s degree in political science during Howard University’s commencement ceremonies  May 10, 2014, in Washington, D.C. If these awardees are lucky, they will not be attending APSA for the next few days.  (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

D.C. residents and workers who frequent the Woodley Park area are likely to be somewhat annoyed over the next few days as thousands upon thousands of political scientists fail to give generous enough tips descend upon Washington for the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association.

In the past, I’ve offered advice to political scientists attending this conference.  Given my new digs here at PostEverything, however, I thought I’d reverse things and proffer a Top 10 list on how to mess with political scientists when they’re on your home turf.

10)  Call them out for wearing their badges in public.  A lot of conference attendees do this, but in my experience political scientists are particularly bad at not taking their conference badges off when they leave the conference center.  If you serve them in a restaurant, call them by name.  Bonus tip: If you really want to mess with them, ask if the school listed on their badge is a real one or more like the University of Phoenix.

9)  Talk about your insider access.  Most political scientists are prodigious researchers, but often lack insider information about inside-the-Beltway goings on.  If you live in D.C., you likely have some reliable information that political scientists don’t — or you can fake it.  So if you’re talking to a political scientist in a bar, and he talks about his theory of legislative process, feel free to say, “That’s funny, my best friend is a Harry Reid aide, and she told me that it didn’t go down that way at all.”  Watch the color drain from his face.  Bonus tip: Say your knowledge is based on classified information.

8)  Pretend there’s a labor strike in D.C.  Will political scientists schedule a conference in a city located in a hurricane zone during hurricane season?  You bet!  Suggest that there’s a strike going on in one of the conference hotels, however, and political scientists get in a tizzy.  So just drop hints that there’s going to be a picket line at any restaurant you want to eat at over the next few days.

7)  Mess with political scientists on social media.  This year’s hashtag is #APSA2014.  Already we’re seeing new Twitter accounts, like @EvilAPSA, dedicated to trolling political scientists.  Including me:

Get in on the social media action!!

6)  Ask them who will be president in 2017.  There are certain stock questions you get when you say what you do.  Economists are always asked about the stock market even if that’s not their expertise.  Political scientists are inevitably asked who will win the next presidential election.  Drives political scientists crazy.  So ask with the widest-eyed expression imaginable.  Bonus tip: Political scientists, if asked this question, respond with “Rick Perry” and see what happens.

5)  Talk about your Labor Day plans.  APSA is always held the weekend of Labor Day.  For political scientists with families, or those at schools that start classes right before Labor Day, it’s a ridiculously inconvenient time.  So inconvenient that there’s now a petition to change the date of the conference.  So today or tomorrow, if you’re sitting next to some political scientists, talk about all the fun things you’re planning on doing for this three-day weekend.  Watch them weep silently into their overpriced white wine.

4) Inquire how true-to-life “House of Cards” really is.  It’s like asking doctors how accurate “Grey’s Anatomy” is.  Guaranteed to produce maximum eye-rolls.  Bonus tip: Same question, but with “Scandal.”

3)  Say, “Today’s Tom Friedman column was really interesting. You should read it.  He makes some good points.” My parents do this to me.  All.  The.  Time.  I suspect other political scientists have the same reaction I do.  Bonus tip: Same statement, but replace “Tom Friedman” with “Maureen Dowd.”

2)  Question the basic purpose of academic political science.  Just say things like, “Nick Kristof made a good point back in February.”  He didn’t, not really, but if a political scientist is annoying you and you need an escape, just say this.  You’ll then have to endure 10 minutes of haranguing, but after that you’ll be left alone.  Bonus tip: Say, “I work for Tom Coburn.”

1)  Be nice to the graduate students.  All my tips should be focused on actual professors — these are the people who are acting slightly more confident and can actually pay for their drinks.  Go easy on the graduate student attendees.  Think of them as interns with bad clothes and even worse job prospects.  Buy them a drink.

Enjoy Labor Day weekend!

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