Are politics and law the same? In what ways are they similar? When, where, and how do they intersect? These are just a few of the questions that anyone, especially someone who is informed and curious, might ask a veteran political insider.

Quite frequently, the term “politics” is misconstrued as “law” and “government.” While all three of the areas certainly intersect and work together in many ways, they are not interchangeable. In fact, they are quite different. All politicians are legislators, the people who write and pass laws, but not all legislators are politicians.

The reasons that law and politics operate so closely together are varied and intricate. InThe Relationship Between Law and Politics,” part of 2009’s Annual Survey of International & Comparative Law, associate law professor Dr. Miro Cerar writes:

The law functions in relation to politics in three basic aspects, namely as a goal, a means, or an obstacle. First, politics can define certain predominantly legal values or institutions as its goal. In this case, the political understanding of these values or institutions becomes almost identical to an authentic legal understanding of the same values or institutions. Second, politics can comprehend the law merely as a means for the fulfillment of certain political interests. In this case, politics is neutral in its attitude toward the law. Finally, politics can interpret law as an obstacle on the way toward the realization of certain political goals. In this situation either politics prevails over law or vice versa.

Edward Schwartz, a former Associate Professor of Government at Harvard University has said “Law is of politics. Erosion of public support for a law, whether it remains on the books or not, forces us to re-evaluate it.”

Ultimately, politicians should have knowledge of law because of their legislative roles. For candidates who know everything about politics and know very little about law, it might put you at a disadvantage of being overly reliant on staffers for legal guidance.