Political Dialog in the Age of Trump

It's difficulty to have have a conversation with an albatross hanging over it.

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There have been a series of frustrating, somewhat interrelated conversations in the comment threads of late. Mostly, they’ve been back-and-forths with my longtime friend, colleague, and co-blogger Steven Taylor but a few have involved me. The underlying subtext, it seems to me, is the different ways in which political scientists and ordinary political junkies view the world. And it’s compounded by the both of us being longtime, albeit former, Republicans while most of the commenters are partisan Democrats.

As former Republicans, we’re naturally more sympathetic to those who still adhere to the party even though Donald Trump is now its leader and guiding force. But, as political scientists, we’re simply less likely to accept single-variable explanations for, well, anything.

Further, we’re both leery of the ecological fallacy. We’re naturally more reluctant than most observers to extrapolate group attributes to individuals and vice-versa.

Neither of us deny that political partisanship is tribal. Much like team sports, where people “root for the laundry,” supporters of a party can twist themselves into knots to excuse outrageous conduct of a member of their “team” that they would naturally decry otherwise.

And we readily acknowledge that the Republican coalition, made up of very different people than the Democratic coalition—and much more neatly sorted over the last decade or so than at any time in living memory—have different motivations in many ways.

While I’ve studied ideology, parties, and the like more extensively than most people, I’ve mostly dabbled in those topics over the last quarter-century, while specializing in international relations and national security affairs. Steven is an expert in those topics, having studied, taught, and written about them for three decades. His doctoral dissertation was literally titled “Rules, Incentives, and Political Parties” and he’s published two books and numerous articles on those subjects since.

Speaking only for myself, I’m just wired differently than most people. I tend to get frustrated by anecdote and “human interest,” looking instead to figure out trends.

So, for example, while I like the New York Times‘ podcast “The Daily,” I get annoyed by their tendency to spend the first fifteen minutes personalizing the story. I care a lot about answering the question “Why Is the Pandemic Killing So Many Black Americans?” I’m not interested in investing a lot of time hearing about a particular black American who died from the pandemic.

And, while I’m fascinated by the policy calculations behind when and how to reopen restaurants, I have no interest at all in hearing from a particular restauranteur in Baton Rouge about her personal struggles.

This means I approach pretty much any story unfolding in the news differently from normal people. The killing of Ahmaud Arbery was tragic and outrageous but it’s not something I would normally spend much time reading, much less writing, about. More young men, and especially young black men, are killed in this country every day than I can care about individually. What interests me is the overall trend.

If the story was simply “racist yahoos from Georgia hunt down and murder a black man,” I’d have shaken my head and moved on. Same shit, different day is seldom of interest to me.

What does interest me is how to reshape public policy to mitigate the problem. If the problem is racism, there’s no fix. But my initial reading of the story—and nothing I’ve since learned has changed my mind—is that racism was likely a subliminal, contributory factor and not the main one.

Rather, as noted in my first post on the subject, it’s a culture, particularly in rural America, that combines guns and vigilantism. While—and my initial understanding was thankfully wrong—the laws have changed in Georgia (and, thus, presumably a lot of other places) to make chasing down a suspected thief or trespasser with guns illegal, the culture hasn’t. I think that’s more fixable than racism.

More broadly, I continue to push back against suggestions that racism is the sole factor driving the current Republican Party and those who vote for it. Or that the party is simply a “cult of personality” surrounding Donald Trump.

There’s obviously some truth to both assertions. Racism and its tangents were absolutely significant in the slow realignment of our two-party system, going back to the movement of the Dixiecrats out of the Democratic Party. And there’s no doubt that Trump is a hero to many for his tendency to say out loud what others only hinted at.

But roughly a third of the country continue to identify with the Republican Party and to support Trump. Racism and “owning the libs” doesn’t explain 100 million Americans.

Beyond that, I routinely interact with high school classmates, Army comrades, and current military officers who support the President. Most of them are really good people; some of them rather extraordinary. They simply see the world differently than I do.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Teve says:

    Here in North Florida/South Georgia, I could tell you countless stories of racism I see on a weekly basis. I can tell you about the teenage tutoring student in 2008 who complained after Obama’s election that “now the blacks are going to be completely out-of-control. I can tell you about the guy in 2016 in Lowes who shouted that “we’re finally going to have a president who’s gonna drag 10 million of them out here kicking and screaming!” I can tell you about the guy that same year who got offended when I had to walk away when he started telling me a n***** joke in the middle of the store. I can tell you about the retired engineer I worked with at Home Depot who complained that if you’re black you automatically qualify for welfare payments and that isn’t fair. I can tell you about the young guy I knew in Valdosta who kept batteries on the console of his truck so that if he saw a black man walking down the side of the road he can fling them at him. But those are all anecdotes and they don’t prove anything. I’ve got 100 more anecdotes like that, though, and those people come into my store every day wearing Trump hats and shirts.

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  2. KM says:

    I, too, value data and trends as part of understanding the world around me. It’s necessary for my job, as is the understanding that all variables need to be considered and approached without bias. For instance, in the Arbery case, video has come out showing dozens of people at the construction site doing exactly what Arbery did that supposedly triggered the suspicion of him being a “burgler”. None of them have indicated being treated as trespassers or burglers and none were attacked. None were seen by the McMicheals, including Arbery. Thus, to determine why Arbery was singled out, we must evaluate the facts and trend. What stands out is obvious – they were white and he was not. Most of the people in the video were young, male, dressed similarly and acted in similar ways. Logically then, the differentiation factor that drove this was his race. No vigilante action was taken against any other offender despite doing the exact same thing.

    Like it or not, the more information that’s coming out indicates that this was driven primarily by Arbery being the Other. Data and trends in the facts coming out about the McMicheals’ behavior bear that out. You cannot do math without using a 4 and you cannot have a useful data analysis by ignoring anything with the color blue attached to it. Race is controversial and as you note, may be an unsolvable problem, but it cannot be downgraded in favor of a “fix”. It’s what made the McMichaels notice and fixate on Arbery and not notice or care about the other trespassers. The vigilant and gun culture you noted do exist and are a major problem…. but that kicked in *after* Arbery got tagged as a threat. It’s not the prime mover, so to speak and in an analysis race would still be a foundational motivation of this attack as it was the proven differential.

    This is not an attack on your or your worldview, by the way. It’s me pointing out if we were to just look at the facts dispassionately for a trend, there’s no trend of the McMicheals going after whites illicitly going to the construction site and there should be if they are just acting as vigilantes stopping potential burglers. In fact, if they had, their cases would be a LOT stronger as it would have established a behavior of “trying to stop petty crime everywhere” instead of “singled out that guy”. It’s pretty clear why that didn’t happen and it does no-one any favors to gloss over it as minor or not the cause of Arbery’s murder.

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  3. Teve says:

    There was some research a few years ago linking conservatism and racial anxiety. Was that ever verified?

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  4. Al says:

    What besides a desire to maintain white supremacy and all that entails, explains the Civil War? Not to say it was the only factor but it was certainly the dominant one.

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  5. MarkedMan says:

    When Steven states that partisanship accounts for 90% (I think that’s his number) of votes for a given candidate in a presidential election, I don’t agree with him. Rather, I accept it. Steven researches this as a professional and, based on other things I’ve read, he is solidly inside the boundaries of what other researchers are finding. Further, it is a well researched topic and has been for decades. Quite frankly, I don’t even bother to have an opinion on whether he is correct or not, because my opinion is not needed. We have actual research.

    Where we diverge – I wouldn’t say “disagree” – is on some terminology and perspective. I’m going to demonstrate with a straw man, one that I’m pretty sure Steven has never weighed in on, so I’m not putting words in his mouth. Suppose that we define some metric of “racism” with those above a certain score considered to be racist. Further, let’s suppose that research shows that less than 50% of members of the Republican Party met the criteria. My impression is that Steven would then argue it would be incorrect to call the Republican Party a racist party. But I would disagree. My opinion is that most large, long running groups, especially those whose leaders exercise actual power, are pretty much guided by the opinions and motivations of a relatively small faction. I don’t know whether that is 15% or 1%, but I would be very surprised if it was higher than 15%. If that small cohort is racist and is pulling the party to engage in racist actions or to exploit racism, then I believe it is accurate to call the Party racist. In fact, even it the individuals in that cohort were not actually racist by the metric, but instead was pulling the party to exploit racism for purely transactional reasons, I still think it is accurately labeled a racist party.

    In my statement above I said “I believe” so I was expressing an opinion. That’s because I don’t think I’ve ever seen any research on my proposition (that a large group is actually guided by a small percentage). If there is research on that I’d be interested in it, and if that research indicated that I was wrong and that the bulk of the membership really does steer large groups, well, my mind would be blown. It would actually be kind of cool, because a large part of my world view is dependent on that supposition. If, at this stage of my life, a whisker away from 60, I suddenly had to reevaluate my whole world view… wow. That oughta give me something to do until I’m 70, at least.

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  6. Stormy Dragon says:

    1. I’m not sure you can just pass this off as an “academics vs. lay people” issue. Dr. Taylor manages to discuss all this stuff without routinely putting up posts that enrage the entire comment section. This is a Dr. Joyner problem. And the fact you keep passing it off as “oh well, it’s just those Dogmatic leftist commenters demanding we go full Balloon Juice” instead of any serious reconsideration is a big part of that problem.

    2. It’s interesting to me that you apparently think racism and culture are two separate subjects (“…racism was likely a subliminal, contributory factor and not the main one. Rather, as noted in my first post on the subject, it’s a culture, particularly in rural America…”).

    3. “What does interest me is how to reshape public policy to mitigate the problem.” Except you didn’t offer any changes in public policy to mitigate the problem. Your response was largely, “Oh well, that’s just how things are in the South, nothing to be done”). Which is what actually pissed off everyone, not academic interest in trends vs. anecdotes.

    4. ” I tend to get frustrated by anecdote and “human interest,” looking instead to figure out trends.” And you were in fact, perfectly happy to address the specific anecdote. Except your primary concern seemed to be that two white guys might be getting tarred with the wrong flavor of homicide rather then the fact an unarmed black man was dead.

    5. “Beyond that, I routinely interact with high school classmates, Army comrades, and current military officers who support the President. Most of them are really good people; some of them rather extraordinary.” And here I think is the core of the problem: you’re stuck in a virtue ethical view of the world where everyone breaks down into “good people” and “bad people”. When someone in your “good people” pool does a bad thing (as all people do a mix of good and bad things), you can’t just accept that someone you know has done something bad, instead you have to rationalize it as actually being a good thing so that you don’t have to banish them to the “bad people” category.

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  7. drj says:

    I continue to push back against suggestions that […] the party is simply a “cult of personality” surrounding Donald Trump.

    I have no problem with this.

    But, at the same time, that doesn’t mean that arguing the contrary position (minus the word “simply,” of course) is necessarily a partisan activity.

    Cults exist and can be studied dispassionately.

    ETA: In other words, reaching different conclusions is, in itself, not a problem, but suggesting or assuming that some questions must necessarily be partisan can be problematic if one wants to get (as much as possible) to the truth.

    Specifically, I think that it is fairly obvious that there are cult-like aspects to the modern-day GOP.

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  8. Kylopod says:

    The irony of framing this dispute as political scientists vs. casual political junkies is that my thinking on politics has been greatly influenced by political science, and there have been many times on this forum when I have taken a relatively “detached” poli-sci perspective compared with other commenters here. In the debate the other day between Steve Taylor and Michael Reynolds over what underlies support for Trump in the general populace, I had somewhat of a middle-ground position, but I didn’t feel like just inserting myself between the two. So I just made a few points as I saw them. I feel that I was polite and civil and stuck to the issues without getting personal, but I can understand how Steve might have perceived that he was being ganged up on and that we were engaging in strawmen, which certainly wasn’t my intent. My main point was that, while I accept the reality of partisan polarization, I believe it is fundamentally asymmetric in the modern age, and in fact there’s quite a bit of research into that effect by political scientists (see the work of Norm Ornstein, for example). And while I realize that Steve and James don’t deny this asymmetry per se, I think some of their analysis downplays it to a significant degree. Steve’s statement that if Obama or some other Democratic president were to tout the virtues of hydrochloroquine, many prominent Dems would start defending it, is to me an illustration of this denial.

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  9. 95 South says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Dr. Taylor manages to discuss all this stuff without routinely putting up posts that enrage the entire comment section. This is a Dr. Joyner problem.

    Sounds like an entire comment section problem to me.

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  10. James Joyner says:

    @Teve:

    I’ve got 100 more anecdotes like that, though, and those people come into my store every day wearing Trump hats and shirts.

    I have, for many years now, acknowledged that anti-black and anti-Hispanic voters overwhelmingly lean Republican. And, for perhaps fewer years, that a lot of Republican politicians court those voters. I just don’t believe anti-minority racism is the only variable keeping the Republican Party viable.

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  11. Modulo Myself says:

    It’s not like political scientists have investigated what it is to be a ‘good’ person in a mass society or anything. Like nobody has written about that, ever, and there’s certainly not endless numbers of books called A Study of the Individual in Mass Society.

    It’s just that a certain type of American commentary exists to justify a great deal of American ignorance, and so the ‘academic’ position is that ‘good’ people are an immutable category of Democracy, and there’s nowhere you can go beyond that.

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  12. Modulo Myself says:

    As a side note–I would say that the post-60s liberals spent decades analyzing how they became the party of McGovern and the anti-war movement. This failure to connect with middle America and voters has driven everything about liberalism up until now.

    Contrast that with Republicans. Point me to any analysis by a Republican or a conservative of what Lee Atwater’s statement about what Republicans really mean when they’re talking about welfare and what the consequences of decades of outright race-baiting might have been. As far as I can tell, Republicans just don’t like thinking about the results of their actions. They just don’t like it.

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  13. KM says:

    There is an issue that might be affecting affecting tone lately as well: caretaker burnout. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, it is defined a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude — from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned. In some cases, the caretaker becomes resentful and even hostile towards what they previously cared for due to the stresses and burdens placed upon them as a direct result of their care. It becomes even worse when the one being cared for actually *is* causing stress on purpose or through their carelessness and the caretaker’s suffering is an afterthought, if not outright a bonus.

    Why do I bring this up? Well, in the Age of Trump, it’s become increasingly clear that liberals and the few sane Republicans left are the adults in the room. That they are responsible for addressing the problems we’re having; forced to watch their more irresponsible brethren set the world on fire and have to go get the hose. It tends to be wearing and makes one less tolerant of…. well, of bullshit. Less likely to give the benefit of the doubt, to not assume intentional malice on the part of the troublemaker and willful blindness by anyone not actively trying to make it stop. Our tone becomes more curt, our comments more biting and frankly, we may start looking for arguments or fights to relieve the stress.

    Pardon my language but liberals are getting tired of all the shit from present society. Nothing concrete is being done to stop the stressors and any attempt they make to alleviate gets active pushback. Complaints about decorum and tone. Complaints that things they do to keep us alive are spiteful attacks to keep their King down. Complaints that we’re trying to destroy the culture or force change when all we’re asking for is to not treat people like garbage. To watch as the system is abused and destroyed from within and it get allowed in an extremely partisan and cynical manner. To be told go high when a moral victory isn’t even assured anymore. To be told they are unfairly judgmental when they point out being the Assistant Manager to Evil is still evil. That apologetics as a study often devolve into excuses and justification for bad behavior.

    Again, this is not an attack on our gracious hosts. It is, however, an explanation for why they are seeing more push-back against points that might have gotten mild disagreement a few years ago. We’re tired. We’re increasingly becoming done with a post-Trump society. We’re becoming less tolerant of not calling a nut a nut or a racist a racist when instances of it are exploding out of the woodwork. To quote the kids, we can’t even and it shows. Unless this issue is addressed, it’s only going to get worse. We’ve seen what bitter and ignored conservatives have become; I don’t want to see the liberal version.

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  14. James Joyner says:

    @KM:

    there’s no trend of the McMicheals going after whites illicitly going to the construction site and there should be if they are just acting as vigilantes stopping potential burglers

    Right. And I acknowledged in the first post where I wrote about the case that, were Arbery white, nothing that followed would likely have happened. Race is a variable, either major or minor, in so much of American life.

    My argument is nuanced: Thinking a black man likely to be a criminal and then chasing him down and ultimately shooting him when he charges at you scared for his life is awful. It’s criminal. And, yes, it’s tinged with racism. I just think that’s different than “Woohoo, here’s my chance to kill me a nigger.”

    From what I’ve gleaned of the elder McMichaels, he’s of the genre that impolite society called “poor white trash” back in the day. And, yes, that term itself has racial connotations. But he was licensed to carry a gun and arrest people in rural Georgia for decades. He had plenty of opportunity to kill a black man and get away with it. The fact he didn’t do it until he was in his 60s would indicate to me that he’s an ordinary mild racist—the kind who sees black men as a dangerous Other—and not the more virulent type who’d like nothing better than to see more of them dead.

    None of that matters in terms of the elements of the crime. But I think it matters in sentencing and, especially, how we talk about him and the case.

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  15. Scott F. says:

    First and foremost, thank you for putting yourself out there personally in your posting in general and in this post particularly. By being personal and taking the pushback personally, you expose your psyche in ways most people never do and you should be commended for it.

    That said, a couple of comments on what you’ve written this time around.

    But roughly a third of the country continue to identify with the Republican Party and to support Trump. Racism and “owning the libs” doesn’t explain 100 million Americans.

    I think the 100 million Americans could be explained if you added to your equation the Republican donor class and billionaire wannabes. In order to maintain their wealth and their influence over power, Republican donors spend a massive amount of money in media and think tanks to keep the racists and the libtard owners in their coalition. Monied interests plus useful idiots equals 100 million easily.

    Beyond that, I routinely interact with high school classmates, Army comrades, and current military officers who support the President. Most of them are really good people; some of them rather extraordinary. They simply see the world differently than I do.

    Though this is likely too personal to explore, I would sincerely like to understand this better. As your writing makes clear, you have concluded that supporting Trump is something that you can not do in order to remain true to yourself and your values. This despite your history and previous loyalties – your worldview. Yet, you have colleagues that won’t and they remain good and extraordinary in your eyes. How do you do that? Many times in my 57 years, I’ve seen past political and spiritual differences to maintain friendships. But, Trump is an unprecedented level of political malice coupled with derisive ineptitude that I simply can’t see past. I’m wondering what your threshold is – what level of evil could a respected colleague support before they’d lose your respect?

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  16. James Joyner says:

    @drj:

    I think that it is fairly obvious that there are cult-like aspects to the modern-day GOP.

    I wouldn’t go quite that far. Rather, I’d say there are occasionally cults of personality in American politics. They’re often quite benign: FDR, JFK, Reagan, and Obama all inspired cults of personality. So did Ross Perot and for that matter Bernie Sanders, albeit on a smaller scale. But so did George Wallace and Donald Trump.

    That people who claim to espouse family values, small government, and decency seem to worship Trump, who is the antithesis of thosethings, speaks to a cult of personality. I just think the larger segment of Republican voters rationalizes him as “Well, he’s an ass but at least he’s doing something about China/tax cuts/judges, etc.”

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  17. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    I just don’t believe anti-minority racism is the only variable keeping the Republican Party viable.

    I agree with that part of your post, but am going to pick a nit on the other part of your post because it is factually inaccurate.

    I have, for many years now, acknowledged that anti-black and anti-Hispanic voters overwhelmingly lean Republican. And, for perhaps fewer years, that a lot of Republican politicians court those voters.

    Up through the 1950’s, the bulk of the most virulent racists were part of the Democratic Party – the Dixiecrats. But in 1964, with the Democrats starting to fracture over civil rights, the Republican leadership made a conscious decision to draw those racists into the Republican Party. So your time line is exactly wrong. The Republican Politicians courted the racists, and then the racists joined the party, not the other way round.

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  18. Modulo Myself says:

    @James Joyner:

    You’re talking about two guys who concocted a crime wave out of a video of a black guy at a construction site and a missing gun. They ended heavily armed confronting a fucking jogger in the middle of the day.

    It’s like saying he wasn’t one of those Protocol-believing anti-semites, but he couldn’t help but notice how wealthy his Jewish neighbors were, which explains the unfortunate pogrom.

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  19. James Joyner says:

    @Kylopod:

    Steve’s statement that if Obama or some other Democratic president were to tout the virtues of hydroxychloroquine, many prominent Dems would start defending it, is to me an illustration of this denial.

    The difference—which I presume Steven would readily acknowledge—is that it’s virtually inconceivable that Obama would do such a thing. But he’s right that there’s a natural tendency of partisans to rationalize conduct that they would deplore coming from the other team when their guy is doing it.

    2
  20. DeD says:

    Morning, James.
    As I said previously, it was easier for me to leave the party, as the vitriol over policies was getting personal. If you’re looking for data-driven evidence, try Jonathan Metzl’s Dying of Whiteness if you haven’t already. You’ll get all the data-driven evidence you seek, reinforced with the anecdotal testimonials you don’t care for much.
    Concerning Teve’s post, it’s exactly those sentiments that drive regional politics in particular areas that, more than a little, extrapolate to national politics, the intensity of which depending on which party is in power. You have to remember, though, all those neat New Deal programs didn’t get conservatives’ sign on until restrictions were placed keeping black folks from benefitting. Racial attitudes drive more policy decisions in America than we care to admit.

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  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    More broadly, I continue to push back against suggestions that racism is the sole factor driving the current Republican Party and those who vote for it. Or that the party is simply a “cult of personality” surrounding Donald Trump.

    I gotta say James that you have a rather blinkered way of looking at things. Is racism the sole factor driving the current Republican Party? Hell no and I have never heard anyone assert that. First off, we have the politicians and we have the voters. I have heard/read people say that the politicians use race as a tool to motivate their base, an accusation leveled at both sides. I am willing to accept that many GOP politicians themselves are not personally racist, but I have seen way too many of them use race to further their ends with no pushback from other members of their party.

    As for the “cult of personality surrounding trump”, sure, their are some players using trump for their own cynical purposes, and many other’s who are just scared to death of being tweeted into oblivion, but the base GOP voter? Every single damned thing they have said they believed in has been thrown out the window when it comes to trump.

    If you are going to say it isn’t a cult, you need to explain that behavior in other terms.

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  22. KM says:

    @James Joyner:

    My argument is nuanced: Thinking a black man likely to be a criminal and then chasing him down and ultimately shooting him when he charges at you scared for his life is awful. It’s criminal. And, yes, it’s tinged with racism. I just think that’s different than “Woohoo, here’s my chance to kill me a nigger.”

    Hmmm, so if I understand correctly you are viewing not on the scale of racism but murderous inclination, albeit potentially racially-motivated? Fair enough. In fact, I’d actually say that’s the more valid scale as many are haters, few are killers. However, it’s not a sentiment that came across in your wording. I’ve noticed you tend to get piled on in articles where your phrasing is…. problematic. I don’t think you mean say what you come across as saying most of the time. It’s just when most of your audience independently comes to the same conclusion, it’s because there was something there that lead them to it. Forgive me but nuanced points require nuanced language and lately you aren’t nailing it.

    He had plenty of opportunity to kill a black man and get away with it. The fact he didn’t do it until he was in his 60s

    This, I’m reserving judgement on till I get more facts. I would like to see a review of their records in law enforcement as well as reports of beatings or deaths in the area that were unsolved. My rationale is as follows: they were associated with law enforcement, a profession were one could get a death declared a “clean shoot” with the right good ole’ boy connections. We know at least one McMicheal got yanked away from where they could get away with shooting people and it wasn’t the lack of certification since nobody seems to given a damn about that. Their history is…. interesting with some gaps that are suggestive of a past violent altercation being covered up.

    Now, is this their first death? Most likely. However, given the circumstances I find I cannot grant the benefit of the doubt. Somebody somewhere is checking on this, I’m sure.

    3
  23. Monala says:

    @James Joyner: it’s come out that McMichaels frequently had his right to carry a gun (on the job at least) and his right to arrest people revoked, due to not keeping up with required training. It’s possible that his lack of ability to stop those he perceived as criminals (although entirely his own fault) frustrated him, so now that he is recently retired, he wasn’t going to let anything stop him.

  24. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    It’s interesting to me that you apparently think racism and culture are two separate subjects

    I think they’re inter-related, with racism being reinforced by culture.

    Except you didn’t offer any changes in public policy to mitigate the problem. Your response was largely, “Oh well, that’s just how things are in the South, nothing to be done”).

    No. The point of the post was that we need to change the culture of vigilantism—to make the very notion of chasing down suspected criminals with guns rather than just calling the damn cops anathema. In rural culture, even though it’s apparently now illegal in Georgia, it’s still considered normal. I think the McMichaels men honestly thought they were some kind of heroes when they went after Arbery.

    When someone in your “good people” pool does a bad thing (as all people do a mix of good and bad things), you can’t just accept that someone you know has done something bad, instead you have to rationalize it as actually being a good thing so that you don’t have to banish them to the “bad people” category.

    I see people as highly complex, motivated by so many factors that they themselves often don’t understand what motivates them. We tell ourselves stories and rationalize.

    Many of my high school friends never left rural Alabama or furthered their education beyond high school. They’re living in a different reality than I am, with very different views being reinforced by family, friends, church, and civil society writ large.

    Most of my Army friends were fellow officers, some my age some a decade or more older. Their views are much more diverse. But they’re disproportionately still Republican, for all manner of reasons, surely including tribalism. But I don’t think that, for example, the black West Point graduate who’s my age but still lives in rural Florida supports Trump because of the racism.

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  25. 95 South says:

    @James Joyner: This reminds me of an earlier thread where people were debating how Trump supporters would think, solely from the standpoint of whether a cultist would think that way. “Cult45” was the assumption driving their predictions.

    1
  26. James Joyner says:

    @Scott F.:

    I’m wondering what your threshold is – what level of evil could a respected colleague support before they’d lose your respect?

    One thing we need to constantly remind ourselves of—and I include myself in this, because I constantly forget it—-in these discussions is how unusual we are. The vast number of our fellow citizens simply spend far, far less time and energy following the day-to-day happenings in the news cycle. And, increasingly, the news they do consume is selected either by themselves or by computer algorithms to feed their pre-existing beliefs.

    So, the overwhelming number of Trump supporters are mostly oblivious to the day-to-day idiocy and depravity. And, because we’re wired to dismiss information that conflicts with our existing worldview, it’s just really hard to make a dent.

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  27. gVOR08 says:

    A few thoughts I find useful in sorting out things like this, YMMV.

    Politics, like economics, happens at the margins. The bulk of Republicans may not be racists. But to drive the last crossover Obama-Trump voter and drive the last increment of turnout, Trump, and other GOPs clearly run on race. Let me clarify that. For the most part they avoid being clear about running on race, but clearly they are. For which see Sides et al Identity Crisis. What they are running on may not represent their real platform or the bulk of the members. But it is what they’re running on.

    Flotation is not an explicit driving force behind most Navy decision making, yet it underlies everything they do. Race may not drive every decision the McMichaels made, yet….

    If the problem is racism, there’s no fix.

    I’ve commented before that “That’s just the way things are. Nothing can be done.” Is the reflexive conservative response to everything. Over many decades we’ve decided Poles, Irish, and Catholics are “us”. Until Trump started blowing about the “Chinese virus” we seemed well on our way to letting Chinese and Japanese ethnics be “us”. After 2016 the RNC realized that sooner or later they were going to have to let Hispanics be “us”. Someday we’ll let everyone in. Sooner if we push a bit. We’re still seeing fallout from school integration and much of it has been de facto walked back. But I see a lot more mixed race couples and mixed groups of teenagers and children than I used to. From what I see. largely anecdotal, the kids are alright when it comes to race, or at least a lot better. Please note, James, that I started reading this site to get a reasoned, well argued, conservative take, so while I may push back, I appreciate your take on this and most things.

    I have in these threads quoted Ezra Klein’s Why We’re Polarized a few times. I recommend it for a lay take on, well, why we’re so polarized. He tells the same story Dr. T tells, but without the space and time limitations of a blog post. I have on occasion noted that conservatives need to see moral agency behind everything. Inverting that, I feel Klein, and political scientists, overlook agency. Maybe it’s inevitable that, given the opportunity, Republicans would seize on and exacerbate every social cleavage for their electoral advantage, but that doesn’t mean their actions should be overlooked or their venality not be condemned. After all, if they had a respectable platform, instead of ‘give rich people all the money’, they wouldn’t have to lie and divide.

    4
  28. @MarkedMan:

    When Steven states that partisanship accounts for 90% (I think that’s his number) of votes for a given candidate in a presidential election,

    Could you point out where I said that? I am not necessarily disputing that I did, but it would be helpful to understand what you are addressing here.

    I will reaffirm that for most people partisan identity is the key variable.

    And I will also affirm that polling is pretty clear: most people don’t change their partisan affiliation (as defined by votes) across elections.

  29. Monala says:

    @James Joyner: I’m wondering why you’re trying to thread this needle. Let’s take the most famous lynching of the last century: that of Emmmet Till. His murderers owned a store that served the local black sharecropper population. His wife, as she admitted on her deathbed, lied about Till sexually harassing her when he was in the store because she was mad at her husband and wanted to make him jealous.

    The husband grabbed his cousin, hunted the 14-year-old boy down, brutally beat him, shot him and drowned him. His body was virtually unrecognizable.

    Till’s killer owned a store where black people shopped. It’s unlikely he had ever killed a black person before. Do you want to argue that that makes him an “ordinary, mild racist” rather than the virulent kind?

    4
  30. Kurtz says:

    @95 South:

    I, for one, don’t get enraged by Dr. Joyner. I’m also pretty sure I’m further to the Left of most of the comment section.

    What that means? I don’t know. I’m not perfect at it (as Jen likely remembers) but I do make an effort to not paint all Republicans with a broad brush.

    3
  31. Jay L Gischer says:

    @James Joyner:

    I just don’t believe anti-minority racism is the only variable keeping the Republican Party viable.

    I agree with this. Let’s look at 2016. Certainly there was an appeal to racists. But other big motivators for Republican voter were hatred of Hillary Clinton, a desire for anti-abortion judges, and opposition to same-sex marriage, as well as fear of internationalism (which was sold with a racist coloration, to be sure). I think 2016 dramatically demonstrated that the constituency for traditional Republican things like fewer regulations, free trade, and lower taxes was a lot smaller than we thought it was.

    4
  32. @MarkedMan:

    let’s suppose that research shows that less than 50% of members of the Republican Party met the criteria. My impression is that Steven would then argue it would be incorrect to call the Republican Party a racist party.

    Actually, at a minimum based on such information, I would describe such a party as having a substantial racist faction as part of its coalition. But, I would say that now about the GOP.

    I honestly think that a lot of the pushback I get on the partisanship issue is based on an utter misunderstanding of what I have been trying to say (and I will admit that if I am misunderstood, part of that is on me, but it isn’t all on me).

    I think people want me to always be making value judgments when I talk about parties, but that’s not what I am doing when I talk about mass behavior or when I try to explain the various dynamic of electoral and governing institutions.

    I know the vast majority of commenters would prefer I simply shit on Republicans relentlessly but as an analytical fact, there are actual reasons in a binary system that people will vote for Rs even with all the nonsense that entails. I am not defending it in some misguided attempt at bothsiderism. It actually, personally, frustrates me. But the realities of partisanship, the nature of power competition, and the way in which rules shape incentives and behaviors means that actual analysis can’t just be about morality plays or my personal political preferences.

    1
  33. KM says:

    @95 South:

    “Cult45” was the assumption driving their predictions.

    Gonna go full Godwin here while tying back to my caretaker burnout point: Why is it on others to distinguish a good Nazi from someone merely Nazi-sympathetic? Why is it on others to determine “what’s in your heart and head” when functionally you act and do the same as Cult45? What difference does it make other then you don’t want to be tarred with that label? If we can’t tell right away, it’s because there’s no meaningful distinction on hand.

    I’ll say it again: Assistant Manager to Evil is still evil. The world decided this a long time when people tried to plead “that’s not really them” or “they were just following orders”. The prevailing sentiment for nearly 3/4 of a century is “What do you call someone who supported the Nazis or agreed with their goals? A Nazi”

    If you vote Trump, you choose him and all his baggage. You don’t get to disavow 95% of what he is and does because you only want him for the other 5%. There is no functional difference between the useful idiot, the willfully blind supporter and the zealous devotee when you all do the exact same thing: defend what he does and try to keep him in power. There’s no difference between the “passionate idiots” and the “meh, better than a liberal” when you inflict the same damage and support the same lack of control or oversight.

    He’s your choice. It’s on you to defend it and it’s not on us to come up with excuses for why your rationale might be different then the norm. If you are doing it for some obscure reason, you cannot possible expect strangers to know that. They see you in the crowd of raving nuts, see you doing what the nuts are doing and quite reasonably assume you too are a nut. If you are in fact, not a nut, then it begs the questions: why in god’s name are you doing something that makes you look like one and is there any real difference?

    15
  34. Monala says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Steven, I generally do respect you, but I’m getting frustrated with you. Specifically, you keep saying that commenters are putting words in your mouth, but you’re doing the same to us. Here you say, “ I know the vast majority of commenters would prefer I simply shit on Republicans relentlessly.” A couple of days ago you wrote that we were arguing with you because we think you’re calling us brainwashed. Not a single commenter that I know of has said either of those things.

    9
  35. 95 South says:

    @KM: Nothing in your comment addresses my point. Every last Republican could be good, evil, or buttery. It doesn’t change the fact that people were specifically using the cult framework to understand Republicans, which is what James and drj were debating.

    To emphasize – I was replying to James saying that Trump supporters aren’t a cult. The cult label has gone from an analogy to a clinical diagnosis without having been examined.

    1
  36. James Joyner says:

    @Monala:

    Till’s killer owned a store where black people shopped. It’s unlikely he had ever killed a black person before. Do you want to argue that that makes him an “ordinary, mild racist” rather than the virulent kind?

    I honestly don’t think the conditions of 1955 Mississippi and 2020 Georgia are sufficiently aligned to make parsing this useful. Too much has changed. What hasn’t, though, is the “honor culture” of the rural South and the violence that it begets.

    6
  37. Modulo Myself says:

    Also, where these guys in Georgia were is not rural. Rural America does not have subdivisions. Brunswick, Georgia has a population of 15,000. That’s not rural.

    This is one of the real problems with politics in this country: outside of a few mega-cities and college towns, everything is rural America filled with white working-class folks who work hard and spend their off hours hunting, fishing, and praying.

    You can’t talk about people if they live in some mythic gloop that has no bearing in reality.

    3
  38. KM says:

    @95 South :
    Actually it does. You are stating that there’s the difference between “the culties” and “Republicans”. I pointed out you can’t tell anymore when they both act the same way. That’s what “no functional difference’ means – that one is de facto the other. There might be ideological differences but in the end, both behave the same way. Is Mitch a Cult45 member? Hell no – he’s turning a willfully blind eye and offering a helping hand, though. Same outcome. Is Graham a Cult45 member? Nope – he’s a lick-spittle and opportunist, not a true believer. Same outcome.
    Are *you* a Cult45 member? Probably not but you are doing exactly what they do – defend the idiocies Trump does instead of taking meaningful action to stop them while insist #NotAllRepublicans.

    That is why a cult framework is used. You know cults have lawyers that aren’t believers, right? Landlords and people who sell to them. People who do work defending them and letting them thrive without being an actual member. If you are doing something to actively support a problem, then what does it matter why you are doing it? Your support is the issue and why you are being challenged.

    Honestly, y’all seem more upset about being tarred with the same brush then wondering why you are being considered this way. There’s no major or even minor Republican rebellion against him – that’s tactic acceptance, if not outright approval. The data trend is the GOP is encouraging this, not trying to suppress it. It’s Republicans peddling the BS explanations and conspiracy theories instead of going “look, we know he’s a hot mess but he’s currently POTUS so we reluctantly offer support. ” As James noted, you’d be anecdotal evidence measured against a clear national trend. The cult framework gets applied because, like it or not, *that* is the current model y’all are following based on all available facts- you might consider yourself to be the outlier.

    10
  39. Michael Reynolds says:

    Let’s just jump into some Godwin.

    Was there a cult of personality around Hitler? Clearly. Was every Nazi Party member equally enthusiastic? No. Does that matter? No. Because it was the cultists driving the tank.

    Was every Nazi Party member anxious to murder Jews? No. Does it matter? No, because the Jews still got murdered.

    Shall we reserve judgment on Nazis as a whole because there were varying degrees of enthusiasm and blood lust? No, because they did what they did.

    You don’t have to be the most extreme Nazi to be a Nazi. In fact Naziism thrived on the indifference of Germans to the fate of ‘the other.’ Indifference is not innocence. Indifference is contributory.

    So, @James, all those pleasant Nazis, sorry, Republicans you know are nevertheless part of a white supremacist party. They are not innocent just because they wince and nod their heads sympathetically over the evil of racism and don’t tell n–ger jokes, they’re just weak and hypocritical and indifferent to their fellow Americans. You know what people like that are? They’re the Good Germans. In other words, cowards.

    17
  40. 95 South says:

    @KM:

    You are stating that there’s the difference between “the culties” and “Republicans”.

    No, I’m saying there is no reason to apply the cult framework to Trump supporters, even his most loyal supporters, any more than it would be applied during any Presidency. Also, there’s no evidence the framework provides insight or predictive power.

  41. Kit says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    @MarkedMan:
    When Steven states that partisanship accounts for 90% (I think that’s his number) of votes for a given candidate in a presidential election,

    Could you point out where I said that? I am not necessarily disputing that I did, but it would be helpful to understand what you are addressing here.

    I think MarkedMan might be thinking of this post by Northerner:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Put another way: the question is, what explains stable support for Trump, as well as voting outcomes (all in the aggregate)

    I’d suggest team sports explains 90% of it, given that 90% of people vote for the same party every election. You show up at the stadium and cheer for your team, even if you know the other team is better, even if you think the captain of your team is a horrible person.

    It will be a miracle if I managed to format that correctly.

    ETA: This is not a case of Steven having said anything about 90%. Perhaps MarkedMan just misremembered that detail from a rather passionate thread.

    2
  42. @Monala:

    Steven, I generally do respect you, but I’m getting frustrated with you. Specifically, you keep saying that commenters are putting words in your mouth, but you’re doing the same to us. Here you say, “ I know the vast majority of commenters would prefer I simply shit on Republicans relentlessly.” A couple of days ago you wrote that we were arguing with you because we think you’re calling us brainwashed. Not a single commenter that I know of has said either of those things.

    A fair statement.

    Let me amend: it feels like to me (a subjective position, I will allow) that a lot of pushback I receive is because I am not being sufficiently critical, at a given moment, of the GOP. It is rare that I get any pushback on posts wherein I am unabashedly critical of Trump or the party.

    It also appears to me that when I talk about partisanship as a variable (or when I talk about independents) a lot of the pushback takes comes from a place wherein some of the respondents don’t want to think themselves as being influenced by labels, but are rather being rational (of course, from my POV, those are not mutually exclusive).

    2
  43. @James Joyner:

    The difference—which I presume Steven would readily acknowledge—is that it’s virtually inconceivable that Obama would do such a thing. But he’s right that there’s a natural tendency of partisans to rationalize conduct that they would deplore coming from the other team when their guy is doing it.

    I made the mistake of addressing someone’s counterfactual without providing the obvious caveat that I cannot imagine Obama doing such a thing, and I understand that matters.

    But I will stand by my statement: if Obama did say that, or really, anything else, the predisposition of supporters would be to give the utterance a favorable viewing. Some would call BS on BS, but at least some people would accept it, and others would seek to rationalize it.

    The notion that this would not be the case seems to fly in the face of what we know to be true. If we trust a source, we are less skeptical of what that source says, by definition.

    3
  44. Michael Reynolds says:

    And a rant on anecdote vs. data.

    Data is data. May be good, solid data, may not be. Anecdote, likewise, may be true, may be something less than true, may illustrate a larger question, or it may not. But that’s the point, because data is not the opposite of anecdote. The two are separate information streams measuring different things. They can be in conflict but are not necessarily so. And either or both can be misleading.

    You cannot understand the world by excluding humans, which is what you’re doing when you automatically dismiss anecdote. We do not live in a giant clock. We live in a giant organism. It is complex and efforts to simplify it inevitably end up trying to shove X amount of information into a box that only holds .5 X.

    Imagining that you’re being objective by dismissing anecdote a priori is simplistic. First, objectivity is not possible, we are, by definition, subjects. 100% of what we think we know passes through multiple subjective filters, many physical, some psychological.

    Simply bringing a cleaver down and cutting off anything that can’t be labeled data is a trap, because it allows you to narrow focus, which in itself distorts. Yes, you protect yourself from all the emotionality of anecdote, but you do it by making yourself a prisoner of data which may or may not be reliable, and sometimes the unreliability of a datum is first revealed by anecdote.

    For decades there was no data whatsoever on sexual harassment. The term had not been invented. There followed decades more where the data was sketchy at best. Sexual harassment was revealed by anecdote. Lacking anecdote there would never have been data because there’d have been no reason to collect data. Right? And yet, mysteriously (!) sexual harassment was real all along.

    3
  45. DeD says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    . . . most people don’t change their partisan affiliation (as defined by votes) across elections.

    Good morning, Dr. Taylor. What would you say explains those of us who do? Because that’s how I’ve always voted. I’d consider a right-of-center GOP candidate over Biden, if Mitch McConnell didn’t hold the Senate. Hell, I was on track to vote for McCain before he chose Palin as his VP.

    2
  46. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Steven, if that number is wrong, apologies. I know that you have stated, repeatedly, that partisanship is the biggest factor in voter choice. I vaguely remembered the 90% number, but to be honest I may currently sitting on the area I pulled that from.

    My point remains. You study this stuff. I don’t. If you tell us that the research shows that partisanship is the dominant factor, I’ll accept that.

    It also happens to make sense to me. If it was something I thought outlandish, I might look for a second opinion, or if it was really bothering me, start looking at definition of terms and methodology. But absent stumbling on some major debate in your field, I’ld still most likely defer to the expert.

    I assume if you have opinions on how the FDA interprets the privacy and security clauses for medical devices ( 😉 ), you might give heavy weight to my opinions on that.

    2
  47. KM says:

    @95 South:
    Why not? You are being willfully ignorant if ignore clear evidence that this President is being treated very different by his constituent and party then any other.

    Data is data, fact are facts. This whole post started because James wanted to point out they are speaking more about trends and analysis. Well, a truly honest analysis shows things quite unflattering to the current party thus are getting downplayed by individuals such as yourself. I can’t help but notice you are again pushing back about the label and it’s connotations without addressing my point – that their actions merit it. There is a singular devoted focus to protecting this President from reality and to justify the bizarre things he does daily. This is a clear deviation from previous behavior and its undeniable tied to a single man. The manipulation and outright gaslighting to excuse everything he does to the point where “fake news” is now a viable alternative reality to many is now accepted as “what you do” as a Republican to defend against liberal criticisms. The entire political party has decided to sacrifice the concept of truth itself to appease it’s leader.

    I don’t know about you but I do have training in counseling and this? This definite shows clinical signs of cult behavior. In fact, if you scrubbed the name and some details while presenting as a case study to a class, you will get virtually unanimous consent that this would be considered cult-like behavior. It’s absolutely useful as a predictive model as the altered way of thinking and behaving it models helps explain such self-destructive behavior as the anti-maskers making it a political statement in the middle of a damn pandemic. Trump made it a thing so now it’s a thing even at the cost of your life and health.

    Let me be clear here: He’s. Not. Normal.
    This. Is. Not. Normal.
    This. Is. How. Cults. Behave. Based. On. Decades. of. Science
    So why are you continuously trying to normalize it?

    9
  48. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Actually, I think one of the reasons you get push back is because you are engaging in a different debate than your correspondents, without either side realizing it.

    When you say “I think people want me to always be making value judgments when I talk about parties” it demonstrates this confusion. Your correspondents think your replies WERE value judgements, and since you were disagreeing with them your values must be opposite. FWIW, I don’t see you as making value judgements for the most part.

    Another disconnect is that others (this time including me) are more likely than you to give “The Republican Party” agency, so I’m comfortable in saying “The Republican Party is…” and you sort of automatically reject that shorthand thinking.

    2
  49. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    You cannot understand the world by excluding humans, which is what you’re doing when you automatically dismiss anecdote.

    I use anecdotes occasionally when trying to teach and otherwise explain. And, while I’m trained as a data scientist, I’ve never been a quant guy.

    I mostly object to the way a lot of the press and many politicians (e.g., in Congressional hearings) use anecdote: as a way to personalize and therefore emotionalize the issue. Pretty much any law named after a dead child, for example, was bad public policy.

    Or, in the case of the podcast on “Why Is the Pandemic Killing So Many Black Americans?” the anecdote really told me nothing. They didn’t even know how the poor black guy whose wife was being interviewed got sick. But spending so much time on their case meant there was not much time for the black journalist telling the story to expound on her very interesting theories about the titular question. (The first, that blacks are disproportionately in “essential” jobs was obvious and the answer I would have reflexively given. The other two arguments were much more nuanced and insightful but not well fleshed out.)

    4
  50. wr says:

    @Kurtz: “I, for one, don’t get enraged by Dr. Joyner.”

    I don’t, either. As I read through this thread I realize my response when he writes something that feels (to me) thoughtlessly reactionary is… disappointment. Which I fully acknowledge is crazy — he owes me nothing, and he has certainly never pretended to be anyone other than who he is. And if I were to judge him on my personal political scale — which is about as arrogant a thing to do as I can imagine — I have to be really impressed at the growth he’s shown over the years. How many of us in any camp are able to move so far from what we once believed, and to talk about it honestly to strangers?

    On those rare occasions when I do snark back at Dr. J in irritation, I’m really just disappointed that he isn’t entirely one of “us.” But I always feel guilty, because there’s no reason why he should be “us” and I’m not sure the world wouldn’t be poorer if he were.

    I’d say the same for Dr. Taylor, but I don’t think I’ve ever snarked back at him except in ways that are obviously (I hope) good-natured. But I think that’s because we think in the same way a lot of the time — not necessarily politically, and certainly not in terms of political science, in which I can’t even call myself an amateur, but because I am a university professor and son of a university professor and we speak the same essential language.

    2
  51. wr says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: “I think people want me to always be making value judgments when I talk about parties”

    Not just value judgments. OUR value judgments.

    ‘Fessing up here.

    6
  52. Andy says:

    I happened to check the headlines on OTB this morning, got curious about this post, and decided to temporarily break my self-imposed exile to make a comment since it’s pertinent in explaining my reasons for dropping OTB after 15 years of participation here.

    Like you, Stephen and Doug, I much prefer an analytical approach vs a polemical/tribal approach. But the reason I’ve foresworn OTB is because an analytical approach is very rarely possible anymore for those of us confined to the comment section. Yes, most of the commentators here are partisan Democrats which isn’t a problem for me. I have no beef with partisan Democrats just as I have no beef with partisan Republicans or Libertarians or Greens. I’m don’t object to people’s ideology or arguments here, I object to their behavior the sum of which has gotten worse over time. From my perspective, many commentators here regularly replace argument based on any kind of merit or fact with various forms of ad hominem to include naked attacks on the character and integrity of other commenters.

    That’s only half of the problem though, and not the most important half. The other, more important half, is that these attacks go unchallenged and are actually rewarded. Put another way, the problem that you and the other headliners have basically done nothing when it comes to personal attacks in the comments section. And I think that is the reason that so many who aren’t partisan Democrats have left, to include myself.

    I’ve frequently commended you, Stephen and Doug for leading by example. Even goaded by uncharitable replies and attacks directed at you, all three of you maintain an even keel. Your demeanor here is admirable – something I’ve repeatedly noted over the years.

    But that is not enough.

    Prior to reading this thread, I looked through some recent topics and quickly found the perfect example to highlight the problem as I see it – your post on Dave Schuler’s argument about the effects of government policy and Covid. In that thread someone basically said that Dave’s thesis was “Republicanism” (whatever that means). You defended him by noting he’s a life-long Democrat. Then Michael says balony and calls Dave a Good German. Michael’s entire comment was an attack on Dave’s character (not to mention an ignorant, mean, and fact-free attack). And Dave isn’t just a regular commenter – he is (or used to be), a headliner. Defending Dave from the charge of having Republican ideas while remaining silent on the charge of being a Good German speaks volumes.

    That’s not an isolated example. And the reality is that those kinds of attacks and ad homimens regularly receive double-digit upvotes, indicating a non-trivial portion of your comment section approves. I think it’s gotten to the point where the polemicists are running your comment section and you are letting them.

    Michael, just as the most pertinent and obvious example, has accused me of all kinds of things over the years including being a terrible parent, unamerican, a bad person, a Good German, and all kinds of other things I can’t remember off the top of my head. None of the proprietors have even done the minimum by asking him to tone it down. And it’s only when I’ve spent the effort to mount a vigorous and time-consuming defense, carefully laying out exactly why the aspersions made against me were factually wrong, unfair and stupid do some people come out of the woodwork and say, yeah, Andy isn’t whatever bad thing.

    Most of the time it’s silence with the upvote system showing wide and anonymous approval of Michael’s (and other’s) attempts at character assassination.

    As I’ve noted many times in similar discussions here in the past, I understand that managing and moderating a comment section is very difficult. But I think the choice you have made to ignore what are clearly acerbic, hateful, content-free, and meritless attacks on other participants in the comments section is allowing those who utilize those tactics with regularity to be the de facto moderators here. There is no real attempt to enforce any social or community norms, even with an occasional, “hey guys, let’s not engage in personal attacks and keep the debate focused on the issues.”

    But don’t take my word for it, I’m just one anecdote.

    You, like me, prefer to look at trends. What do the trends about your blog’s comment section indicate? Maybe revisit your “Where have all the commenters gone” post from a bit over a year ago and ask yourself – is it trending toward or away from Balloon Juice territory? My anecdotal experience has probably biased my own trend analysis, but I think you are heading in the wrong direction. And, outside of this thread, I will return to OTB exile as one of those commentators who opted to leave because the “community” here has simply grown too toxic.

    8
  53. MarkedMan says:

    @Kit: Yep, I think that’s where I got the 90%. Thanks.

    2
  54. Michael Reynolds says:

    Most of the time it’s silence with the upvote system showing wide and anonymous approval of Michael’s (and other’s) attempts at character assassination.

    Criticism is character assassination? Because no one should ever question your integrity? Because you’re just obviously on the side of right? How dare I? How dare anyone?

    No one here has ever stopped you from making your case. I’ve never gone to James or Steven and asked for protection because I was above criticism. No one’s ever said, Shut up, Andy. When I’ve engaged you it’s been on issues, but issues are not distinct from character, as much as you might like them to be. If a man says he wants to discuss lowering the age of consent to four, I’m prepared to take a leap and suggest the guy’s a scumbag. So are you. So is every decent human being.

    Your positions may seem analytical to you, they seem superficial, callous and closed to alternate points of view, to me. Analytically, rationally, weighing the costs and the benefits we should just let old people die of Covid – think of the savings! Think how much easier it would be to restart the economy. My goodness, the pluses certainly outweigh the minuses, you know, analytically. But if you came here seriously suggesting that as policy, I might well call you some insulting names.

    You know, you may be the only person here more arrogant than I am. But I’m not afraid of being questioned or taken to task, because arrogant as I may be, I know my flaws and my failures and I publicly confess them. I know I could be wrong, so prove it. But ‘how dare you, sir!’ is not a convincing argument.

    And don’t accuse me of not knowing what Schuler writes or, more recently, refuses to write. I can read, and sometimes, my analytical friend, it’s just possible that I get more out of it than you do.

    7
  55. James Joyner says:

    @Andy:

    As I’ve noted many times in similar discussions here in the past, I understand that managing and moderating a comment section is very difficult. But I think the choice you have made to ignore what are clearly acerbic, hateful, content-free, and meritless attacks on other participants in the comments section is allowing those who utilize those tactics with regularity to be the de facto moderators here. There is no real attempt to enforce any social or community norms, even with an occasional, “hey guys, let’s not engage in personal attacks and keep the debate focused on the issues.”

    I think that’s largely fair.

    For quite a number of years, Doug became the de facto main poster on the site. And, while he spent far more time on the blog than Steven or I did, his tendency was to be far more laissez-faire. I’ve almost certainly got the lowest threshold for banning commenters of the three of us but, alas, don’t spend as much time in the comments section as I used to.

    Further, while I’ll instantly ban an anonymous newcomer who I perceive to be a troll, a flame-thrower, or otherwise not much of a value-added to the discussion, I’m pretty tolerant to those who have established themselves, especially if they at least occasionally make good arguments and advance the conversation.

    As to the “Good German” swipe against Dave Schuler, he’s rather capable of defending himself. But it came well after I’d moved on from the thread (indeed, it closed the thread) and is a regular talking point of Michael Reynolds’s (indeed, used again earlier in this thread). I see it as a shorthand for a more complex argument rather than a literal equation to the Nazis but find it somewhat tiresome. Especially in this case, in that Michael not only read Dave’s blog for years (I’m pretty sure that’s how he found OTB) but has actually met him in person and knows him to be a man of high character and rather centrist politics. While I understand why anything less than a full-throated condemnation of Trump and everything he stands for is frustrating, I don’t find that line of argument helpful.

    4
  56. Teve says:

    In the last week I’ve seen:

    Flat earth Luddite, Tyrrell, slugger, Rachel, d Michael, Darrell, Mr. bluster, Jay Gischer, gustopher, Kari Q, night something, kit, DRJ, kingdaddy, restless, Senior Dave, Pete S, liberal capitalist, SC Birdflyte, Ozark hillbilly, Bill r, James Joyner, me, marked man, Sam, Jen, Scott, CSK, Kathy, KM, moosebreath, SLT, Monala, sleeping dog, Neil H, country lawyer, John McC, 95 IQ, Michael Reynolds, Kurtz, Mike in Arlington, Eddie in California, an interested party, the Q, GVR 08, jax, WR, Michael Cain, Stormy Dragon, just another cracker, Matt, grumpy, Kylopod, JKB, and Matt Bernius.

    When you got five dozen people commenting here, of course some people are going to get pissed at other people, some people are going to overreact or misunderstand things, (some people are gonna fuck up apostrophe’s), that’s inevitable.

    13
  57. @Kit: Thanks for finding that.

    1
  58. @Andy:

    There is no real attempt to enforce any social or community norms, even with an occasional, “hey guys, let’s not engage in personal attacks and keep the debate focused on the issues.”

    I have done that on occasion, to be fair. I have also occasionally called out specific comments.

    But I barely have time to post and respond to comments, so policing all of the comments is a near impossibility.

    3
  59. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Teve: Yeah, it’s as much for them as for James and Steven that I show up here. Always interesting. Always valuable. I’m not just “being nice” when I say that I appreciate opinions different from my own, if they are offered honestly and authentically. It really does enrich me, and I appreciate it.

    2
  60. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    My argument is nuanced: Thinking a black man likely to be a criminal and then chasing him down and ultimately shooting him when he charges at you scared for his life is awful. It’s criminal. And, yes, it’s tinged with racism. I just think that’s different than “Woohoo, here’s my chance to kill me a nigger.”

    Why do you think only the latter is truly “racist”? Why do you think the former is only “tinged” with racism?

    If someone sees a black man and their first thought is “criminal”, how is that not racist?

    This makes no sense to me and it certainly isn’t something that I would describe as “nuanced”.

    6
  61. KM says:

    Who downvoted the list of commentators? That was one the posts on this thread least likely to offend.

    8
  62. Teve says:

    @Jay L Gischer: liberals who want intelligent debate with people who disagree with them come here. We’re not going to go to Gateway pond it or Louisiana.com. OK I’ve decided I’m going to leave those voice recognition typos in. Anyway, we come here because there are intelligent conservatives who make this not an echo chamber, and liberals with different ideas. I can name you half a dozen disagreements I have with some of those names I listed, just off the top of my head. So what. There are a very small number of trolls here and as long as people aren’t deliberately trying to poison the discourse I don’t mind even angry disagreement. A person gets smarter by realizing when they’re wrong about something and changing their mind.

    3
  63. Teve says:

    @KM: I don’t know, but it’s pretty funny. I could post, “the capital of Montana is Helena”, and that guy would downvote it. 😀

    4
  64. 95 South says:

    @James Joyner:

    As to the “Good German” swipe against Dave Schuler, he’s rather capable of defending himself. But it came well after I’d moved on from the thread (indeed, it closed the thread) and is a regular talking point of Michael Reynolds’s (indeed, used again earlier in this thread).

    You can’t excuse it because you’d moved on from the thread and also call it a regular talking point that Michael just used.

    2
  65. Mikey says:

    @SKI:

    Why do you think only the latter is truly “racist”? Why do you think the former is only “tinged” with racism?

    It’s a distinction a lot of white people draw to rationalize how terribly America still treats people of color. “Not all white people…”

    It’s irrelevant to a black man because he’s just as dead either way.

    4
  66. 95 South says:

    @KM: That one was me. “95 IQ” didn’t seem worth responding to, but it merited a thumbs down vote, particularly on a “Political Dialog” thread.

    2
  67. Teve says:

    @Mikey: yeah, the way I look at it is, if he had been white, would he have been murdered? No? Then racism was an essential ingredient in the murder.

    3
  68. KM says:

    @95 South:
    Huh, didn’t even notice that. TBH, I realized it was a list of us and didn’t examine it in detail.

    Fair enough- I assumed it was related the statement after the list regarding disagreements. However, if you felt it was a personal slight, then downvote rationale accepted.

  69. drj says:

    Want to get rid of the ad hominems?

    Best get rid of the bullshitters first.

    Otherwise you’d end up with endless, patient, fact-based refutations of the same tedious nonsense over and over and over again.

    Much to the joy of the bullshitters, of course.

    I very much prefer an ad hominem plus a dozen upvotes over five separate one thousand-word essays about why the earth isn’t flat.

    Is this ideal? Obviously not. But it’s considerably better IMO than the alternative.

    3
  70. Kit says:

    @Andy: I, for one, would be sorry to see you leave, Andy. While I don’t always agree with you, I think you are always worth reading. In my opinion, you need to learn to ignore some voices. In fact, I’ve got a theory that were one to map the social network of who replies to whom in this comment section, you would find four or five different little communities. Some people will not even reply to a direct question if asked from the wrong guy; others are the butterflies comfortable in every circle.

    In any case, if you wouldn’t stay then perhaps you wouldn’t mind mentioning where you hang out and find the people a little less toxic.

    4
  71. Monala says:

    @James Joyner: I acknowledge your point that much has changed since 1955, but I think much has not as well (as you note, the Southern “honor” culture is one of those things).

    I recall an article written by Ta-Nehisi Coates when he was at the Atlantic that addressed this issue: whether or not you could label someone or some act as racist if the person in question had examples of non-racist actions in their past. He pointed out that Jesse Helms supported his half-black daughter for decades. He listed several other examples (and being TNC, he had them well-documented) of Confederates, KKK members, Nazis, etc. who had examples in their lives of doing something kind or caring for a person or even a group of people of color, or Jews.

    His conclusion was the same as yours for your military friends who support Trump: people are complex, no one is all good nor all bad. But his conclusion went further: we can’t allow that truth (people are complex) to let us avoid calling out the racism in those folks’ lives, or we will never fully address racism.* Indeed, we see this pattern again and again in recent years with these shootings of unarmed black men, by police or white vigilantes: any error in the black person’s life is evidence that they deserved whatever they got (e.g., “he smoked pot!” “he was once arrested for shoplifting!”), and any positives in the white person’s life are evidence that they should be exonerated.** In this case, we don’t even have examples of positives in the lives of the McMichaels, only a lack of evidence of the negative (“he never shot a black person before”). And as KM said, that’s only as far as we know, since no one has looked.

    ——–

    * I want to give an analogy to this: if a corrupt politician is also a good parent, say, or generously gives to charity, does that mean we shouldn’t call out their corruption?

    ** I know you’re not supporting exonerating the McMichaels for the murder of Arbery, but you are questioning the charge of racism, or at least “virulent” racism.

    4
  72. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    This makes no sense to me and it certainly isn’t something that I would describe as “nuanced”.

    Because “racist” is a continuum, not a category. Most of us are racist to some degree just because of how humans are wired and have to actively fight our visceral instincts without our rational brain.

    I get why Armery’s family and Americans tired of young black men being killed don’t give a damn about subtle distinctions. But I think it matters whether this was a hate crime or two liquored-up rednecks forming a posse and shit getting out of hand.

    Central to our criminal code is mens rea. As I now understand Georgia law, the McMichaels may technically be guilty of felony murder but I think the proper charge is some form of manslaughter.

    3
  73. James Joyner says:

    @95 South:

    You can’t excuse it because you’d moved on from the thread and also call it a regular talking point that Michael just used.

    Calling Dave Schuler a “Good German” because he both-sides Trump with “but Hillary” commentary is arguably an ad hominem. Arguing that Republicans who vote for Trump are analogous to “Good Germans” is not, although it may be a form of poisoning the well.

    4
  74. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    But I think it matters whether this was a hate crime or two liquored-up rednecks forming a posse and shit getting out of hand.

    Why?

    FYI, from a legal perspective, mens rea is satisfied in this case without the shadow of a doubt. They intended to take the action they did. The differentiation you seem to be making doesn’t apply the way you seem to think it does.

    2
  75. James Joyner says:

    @Monala:

    I know you’re not supporting exonerating the McMichaels for the murder of Arbery, but you are questioning the charge of racism, or at least “virulent” racism.

    Well, not exactly.

    At the outset, I was merely saying we had no concrete evidence one way or the other of their racial views at the time I wrote the post.

    But in that same post I felt comfortable making an educated guess that they would not have seen a white man doing the same thing in the same way. If so . . . that’s racism!

    At the same time, we know the elder McMichaels carried a badge and a gun for decades and, so far as we know, never shot a black man. Or, indeed, that he had complaints against him for harassing black people. (And we still don’t, so far as I’m aware.) That’s seemingly evidence that he’s not a guy looking for opportunities to hurt black people.

  76. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    FYI, from a legal perspective, mens rea is satisfied in this case without the shadow of a doubt.

    Yes, because we’ve whittled down the concept over time. In terms of justice, intent should matter.

    They intended to take the action they did.

    Which action?

    Clearly, they intended to chase down and confront Arbery. While armed! That’s a crime, I get it.

    But I’m interested, and think both the justice system and society ought be interested, in whether they intended to murder him or merely confront him and affect a “citizen’s arrest” and hand him over to the cops.

    My sense at the outset, which I’m prepared to move off of given evidence to the contrary, is that they did not set out to murder a man. That their idiot posse got out of hand and a man ended up dead.

    That makes them criminals and they ought be punished. But, if that’s actually what happened, we should think of them and punish them differently than, say, the men who killed James Byrd Jr.

    4
  77. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Criticism is character assassination? Because no one should ever question your integrity? Because you’re just obviously on the side of right? How dare I? How dare anyone?

    You’ll note that I only criticize your arguments and your behavior, not your character. All I’ve ever asked for is the same in return. But you consistently ignore common decency in your behavior here and make patently dishonest claims and aspersions about me (and others) and what you imagine I believe. I have not responded in kind and won’t except to point out your bad behavior and false accusations for what they are.

    We’ve “known” each other online for a long time and have had many great discussions and debates in the past. Despite that history, it is simply not possible to have any kind of discussion with you as long as you continue to ignore the content of my actual arguments in favor of fictions you’ve invented about my beliefs. That used to be fairly rare with you and therefore tolerable, but now personal ad hominems are so common as to make discussion with you pointless.

    Such dishonest and bullying tactics are bad enough, but an even bigger problem is that no one, except apparently me, finds the abusive behavior that you and others regularly engage in problematic or worthy of even the slightest opposition. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    No one here has ever stopped you from making your case.

    That’s quite true. And I’ve made my case many times here over the past 15 years. But there seems to be little point in making a case when many of the responses ignore the case I’m making in favor of strawmen, name-calling, and impugning motives.

    Your positions may seem analytical to you, they seem superficial, callous and closed to alternate points of view, to me. Analytically, rationally, weighing the costs and the benefits we should just let old people die of Covid – think of the savings! Think how much easier it would be to restart the economy. My goodness, the pluses certainly outweigh the minuses, you know, analytically. But if you came here seriously suggesting that as policy, I might well call you some insulting names.

    Quoting this in full because it’s a good example of your motivated reasoning. You’ve assumed that I hold positions about Covid policy that I do not hold just as you’ve assumed that I am nicer to Trump than I was to Obama. As with the Trump-Obama comparison, I’ve given you the opportunity to back up your claims about what I supposedly believe with facts and evidence. After all, I’ve been commenting here and on Schuler’s site for a very long time, so there is plenty of data to mine. But, unfortunately for your thesis about me and Covid, this will be another example where you do not have any evidence to back up your claim because that evidence does not exist in the real world.

    I’ve told you many times before that if you ever want to know what I think about something, all you need to do is ask. Yet you never do Michael, instead, you just declare that you know what I really think and nothing I say convinces you otherwise. These fictions you create about what you think I believe are not analysis, Michael, they are something far different….

    @James Joyner:

    As to the “Good German” swipe against Dave Schuler, he’s rather capable of defending himself.

    I understand Dave can defend himself if he chooses to. And so can I. But the point is that you are the proprietor here and you’ve instituted a rule that plainly states…

    Comments that contain personal attacks about the post author or other commenters will be deleted. Repeated violators will be banned. Challenge the ideas of those with whom you disagree, not their patriotism, decency, or integrity.

    … but you are making zero effort to even give lip service to that rule – at least that’s the perception. The perception is that your community guidelines are just for show.

    Yes, Dave and I and others are perfectly capable of defending ourselves from a barrage of stupid, baseless attacks. That is not the point – the point is that this behavior is so common that the need to defend oneself is virtually constant. And so the question I asked myself is why would I want to be part of a community that tolerates and even promotes such attacks? Do I really want to participate in a community where this is the norm? And the answer is no, I do not. And I’ve left a ton of places where the comment section has descended into a morass.

    I think that is where this site is headed. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems that a lot of people like me with heterodox opinions have made for the exits. Without people in the comments to kick around, the commentariat it turning on you and Steven. Steven summarizes it nicely here:

    Let me amend: it feels like to me (a subjective position, I will allow) that a lot of pushback I receive is because I am not being sufficiently critical, at a given moment, of the GOP. It is rare that I get any pushback on posts wherein I am unabashedly critical of Trump or the party.

    Yeah, that’s a nice summary of the zeitgeist. Any argument that doesn’t come with a strong anti-Trump component is unwelcome in the comments section and god forbid someone who makes even a Trump-adjacent argument. When that perceived line is crossed then the Godwin law comes out with Michael and a couple of others and the hard-core enforcers.

    Anyway, if you want to selectively ignore the rules of your blog and let a few regulars basically say what they want with impunity, then that’s your business. However, I don’t believe that policy is conducive to the long-term health of the comment section.

    3
  78. Jay L Gischer says:

    Y’all realize, I hope, that there is a vast difference between people in what the word “racist” means and describes, right?

    Most black people, and a good portion of white liberals use it quite broadly to describe behavior that while perhaps operating at a subconscious level, displays a differential in decision making based on skin color and origin.

    Whereas another, perhaps more conservative, set of people use the word to describe the behavior of a truly awful, bigoted, person such as Bull Connor.

    I mean, we could engage in “you must use this word in the same way that I use it”, but I don’t find that to be a terribly valuable exercise.

    5
  79. Andy says:

    @Kit:

    Thank you for the kind words – it’s comments like these that have kept me going for so long, but I already quit a few weeks ago. I don’t even have OTB on my RSS feed anymore to avoid the temptation. I do occasionally still check out the headlines which is when I noticed this post and decided to weigh in on this particular topic. But otherwise, I’ve gone cold turkey which has not been easy.

    You’re right that I should be able to ignore some voices and I used to be able to do that when those voices were fewer or at least less frequent. But this really has been a community for me – I have a 15-year history here so ignoring some voices is a lot more difficult than on some random forum.

    5
  80. 95 South says:

    @Jay L Gischer: What about “white supremacist”?

  81. James Joyner says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Y’all realize, I hope, that there is a vast difference between people in what the word “racist” means and describes, right?

    Yes, I agree. But because race is a topic one hesistates to engage precisely for that reason, I took pains to clearly stake out my position on this.

    If one truly believes there’s no moral distinction between Bull Connor and, say, Michael Richards, there’s probably not much I can do to dissuade them from that view.

  82. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    Clearly, they intended to chase down and confront Arbery. While armed! That’s a crime, I get it.

    But I’m interested, and think both the justice system and society ought be interested, in whether they intended to murder him or merely confront him and affect a “citizen’s arrest” and hand him over to the cops.

    You may want our justice system to think so but you’d be wrong to think it does. What they did is classic felony murder in our justice system.

    1
  83. KM says:

    @Andy:

    Any argument that doesn’t come with a strong anti-Trump component is unwelcome in the comments section and god forbid someone who makes even a Trump-adjacent argument.

    Part of that is inherent to Trump being Trump. He’s inherently divisive and has only gotten worse as he’s devolved. It’s very, *very* difficult to make a Trump-adjacent argument without using some of his “logic” or accepting some of his premises. I supposed if one was a skilled orator or supreme wordsmith it’s possible; for most trying, his orbit is inescapable and the taint he’s left on the argument cannot be ignored or downplayed.

    That’s the price you pay when your party selects as it’s leader Donald J Trump. Ancient wisdom: You lay down with dogs and you get fleas. It’s eminently fair to point out that out by the way – if your point is valid in and of itself, it survives his taint. If it doesn’t, he’s either too corrosive to your ideology to be tolerated or your point wasn’t going to survive the argument anyways.

    You can’t pretend he’s not central to the current party line and hasn’t tapped into something that’s been running strong for years, strong enough to take it all over. It amazes me how many people want us to ignore that their chosen (even if it wasn’t your personal choice) champion is ruining their philosophy and we’re supposed to politely not mention it. If anything, we’re doing you a favor by showing you where the rot is so you can shore up the boat. What kind of friends watch their companions sit in a boat that Trump’s gleefully drilling holes in and not warn them? Are we to just let y’all drown without a word because it would be offensive to point out you’re willingly in a boat being sabotaged? That’s the concept of “loyal opposition” – yes, it’s an attack but it’s meant to point out a weakness so it can be fixed. As it doesn’t seem anyone is really interested in doing any fixing in the GOP though, I suppose it comes across as a straight attack.

    14
  84. Kylopod says:

    @Monala:

    He pointed out that Jesse Helms supported his half-black daughter for decades.

    I think you mean Strom Thurmond.

    1
  85. Modulo Myself says:

    Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems that a lot of people like me with heterodox opinions have made for the exits.

    You’re more than welcome to start talking about how wrong it is to call Andrew Sullivan a racist for believing that black people are genetically condemned to being dumber than white people. Ask all of these ‘fascinating’ questions. Go ahead, it’s a free country. But you can’t make others not react as you demand, which is what you really seem to need.

    4
  86. KM says:

    @James Joyner:

    If one truly believes there’s no moral distinction between Bull Connor and, say, Michael Richards, there’s probably not much I can do to dissuade them from that view.

    Generally I’ve found for most people there’s a spectrum and they only ascribe the negative moral label to the “extreme” end because it conveniently leaves a nice, big swath for them and those they may wish to support to reside in. It’s a rare person who admits their flaw and that it’s a terrible thing. Wiggle room means eh, you not as bad as THAT GUY so you’re not really a bad guy, right? We all wish to think the best of ourselves and that we’re the hero of our own story. The closer the concept of “bad” gets to us, the more uncomfortable we get. We might not be the hero or may have been helping the villain. Better to not read that chapter then and let the story end here at the happy ending of their choice.

    We tell ourselves pretty white lies to assuage our conscience and so we can feel better about ourselves. One should feel uncomfortable when challenged because it means one’s actively evaluating and realizing there might be an issue. Realization is needed for correction. Conversely, it can be very frustrating to see someone retreat from self-awareness and into a comfortable bubble of “that’s not me so not thinking about it anymore”. Denial compounds the problem.

    4
  87. EddieInCA says:

    As someone who has sought out, and met several commenters from this site in person, I want to thank Dr. Joyner, Dr. Taylor, Doug (come back soon, you cantankerous crank), Butch, and other front pagers, for creating this community. I post on several other sites, but this one has, in my opinion, the smartest commenters as a group. I sit out entire threads, just reading, because I’m not smart enough or knowledgeable about the subject matter at hand. I’ve learned a ton from Kathy (thank you) and KM and, recently, especially Kurtz.

    Having said that, I get peeved at Dr. Joyner and Dr. Taylor for what I perceive to be huge blind spots when it comes to race and culture. But when I step back from my emotional instantaneous reaction, I realize (as wr posted above), that it is a direct result of differences of upbringing and personal history, nothing more.

    A guy like me…
    …. who grew up and lived under the poverty line in Los Angeles and New York City….
    …. who was constantly harassed by white police officers from the age of 11 years old for doing such things as “walking in the wrong neighborhood”….
    ….. who saw friends die as a result of gang violence at an early age (first friend who was killed was 9 years old when he was shot to death as a gang initiation)..

    …is going to have a very different perspective to Dr. Joyner and Dr. Taylor, both who grew up in the “south” and who have lived a very, very, very different existence than mine.

    Whereas they see law enforcement personnel as an overall positive, I see it much more nuanced. I do not give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure they both do give police the benefit of the doubt. That’s not an insult, but rather a statement of fact.

    Whereas they’re willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Republicans, I am not. I go back to the Birther movement. That was nothing but flat out racisim that got, and still gets, excused. Why? We have a culture that dehumanizes minorities, yet a huge segment of white America chooses to continue downplaying it.

    I was a card carrying GOP member until the night Pat Buchanan gave his speech during the 1992 convention. I saw then what the GOP was becoming. Nothing since that has changed my mind. Over and over again, we see race being what the GOP goes to when it’s electoral hopes are difficult. Yet certain members of the GOP cling to this belief that racists is only a small part of the coalition. I disagree strongly on that point, just based on life experience.

    I’m certain that the two shooters of Amaud Aubrey would claim they’re not racists. I’m certain they are.

    18
  88. Kurtz says:

    @Kit: @Andy:

    I second the notion that Andy’s perspective is sorely missed. Like him, I’ve spent much less time here recently. I read the posts, and scan some of the comments.

    For a while, I commented much more than I do now, but I’ve been busier with other things. I also just haven’t felt the desire to say much.

    At any rate, Andy’s voice is much more essential than mine, because the disagreements that I have with Reynolds or Teve are only obvious from within the broader left. If you’re looking at us from the right, we would look nearly identical.

    The thing is, there are elements of the GOP that I think are non-starters, particularly with the religious section of it. But I’m a little different from most of the commenters, because I prefer to read straight news and philosophy/political theory. I’m as likely to read a RW opinion as I am a LW opinion. Does that make my perspective better or more fair? Probably not, but that’s okay.

    Even with all of that, I can’t pretend to be completely non-partisan, but I have voted for a Republican before. At the present time, I don’t see it happening, absent serious changes in their platform. And I should note that it is more likely to be for an executive office rather than a legislative race, because a bad legislator is much less impactful than an incompetent executive.

    But I have almost as many issues with the Dems as I do with the Republicans. Indeed, many of those issues are the same. But I’m just one voice of many, so a grain of salt is weightier than anything I can say.

    Andy’s criticism of Reynolds is quite fair in some respects, though it would be unfair to say all of his posts lack substance. As someone who has pushed back on both his tone and content before, I can say that Andy has a valid point in his post.

    But to say that Reynolds isn’t valuable would be a vast overstatement.

    5
  89. Kit says:

    @Andy: I hope you will at least give us another shot after the election. Tempers are running high and plenty of people, myself included, sometimes need to let off steam. I can imagine that can grate on your ears. By next year, I hope we can shift back to our pre-Trump levels of political bickering and carping.

    3
  90. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    If one truly believes there’s no moral distinction between Bull Connor and, say, Michael Richards, there’s probably not much I can do to dissuade them from that view.

    If you can’t see that there can both be a moral distinction between the two without refusing to call both racist….

    Henry Ford was a virulent antisemite. So was Hitler. So is Louis Farrakhan. There are moral distinctions between them but they are all antisemites.

    5
  91. grumpy realist says:

    @James Joyner: “Manslaughter” is use for cases where a reasonable person was subjected to such provocation (finding his wife in bed with a lover, for instance) that said person was under the force of his immediate emotional reaction to immediately react and kill the other individual.

    Going out with a huge chip on your shoulder to play hero policeman and bumbling into killing someone because you panicked and lost your head doesn’t cut it. The McMichaels were not passive individuals. They created the situation that they reacted to. They attempted felony false imprisonment (probably due to the guns), which was enough to drag the resultant death up into the level of felony murder. You may not like the fact that felony murder covers ANY death that occurs within the chain of causation associated with a felony, whether accidental or otherwise, but that’s how our Common Law has worked out. (I think of it as “if you are stupid enough to commit a felony and oops end up killing someone through your carelessness, we’re not going to let you off the hook. You don’t get to claim manslaughter due to heightened emotion.)

    There’s a good argument that the McMichaels didn’t have the mens rea for a claim of first-degree murder, but that was never in question.

    3
  92. KM says:

    @Kit @Andy:

    Agreed. I do feel that once the thorn in our collective sides is gone, we can go back to more reasoned debates. It’s always a shame to lose a contributor. Even the trolls still have something to offer, just not what they think they are contributing 🙂

    If you need to take a break @Andy, be sure to come on back when you feel like it. We’ll be here!

    1
  93. Modulo Myself says:

    @SKI:

    Anyone who goes around saying ‘At least I’m not Bull Connor’ is a piece of work, tho.

    What’s the twitter joke? My ‘Not involved in human trafficking’ t-shirt has people asking a lot of questions already answered by my shirt. And there’s that Kierkegaard parable–guy breaks out of the asylum and realizes he has to prove he’s sane. So he thinks of the sanest, most unobjectionable fact in the world: the earth is round. He thinks: if I just tell people this they will never think I belong in an asylum for the inane. So then he goes around telling everybody that the earth is round. Does this for a few hours and ends up back in a cell before evening.

  94. Jay L Gischer says:

    @95 South: I am aware of some who use the term “white supremacist” to mean someone who takes action which appears to privilege white people over black people. For me, though, to deserve that label, a person would have to not only hold that view in conscious thought, but articulate it specifically.

    I’m pretty sure that not everyone uses it that way though. I’ve seen usages by writers of some status on the internet use “white supremacist” when there is no articulation, just behavior that seems suspicious. While the suspicions seem like they are quite plausible, I personally do not like using the label based only on suspicions.

    But there are some who want to make the argument more emotional, and draw more attention to their cause, which is a worthy one.

    Where are you on this one?

    1
  95. Andy says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    You’re more than welcome to start talking about how wrong it is to call Andrew Sullivan a racist for believing that black people are genetically condemned to being dumber than white people. Ask all of these ‘fascinating’ questions. Go ahead, it’s a free country. But you can’t make others not react as you demand, which is what you really seem to need.

    For the record, I’m not Andrew Sullivan, I’m unaware of Andrew Sullivan ever stating that black people are genetically “dumber” than white people, and if he did, in fact, say what you are alleging he said, then I would have no problem criticizing him for that statement and would criticize him myself for it. Regardless, I’m not really sure how Andrew Sullivan is germane to what is being discussed here, the topic of Jame’s post, or my personal views on what makes a good and viable comment section generally.

    Nor am I demanding that anyone, much less you, react to me in a certain way. I merely think it would be nice if people wouldn’t act like dicks and engage in ad hominem “arguments” quite so often.

    Secondly, I’m suggesting that if the blog is going to have comment policies and desires a comment section that promotes discussion that is actually diverse and not circumscribed by the bad behavior of uncharitable bullies, then those policies ought to be somewhat evenly or at least occasionally enforced.

    Does that clear things up for you?

    1
  96. 95 South says:

    @Jay L Gischer: My thinking is, if you call someone racist, maybe you have a different sense of the word. But if you call someone racist and white supremacist, and tell stories like Teve did, we’re not debating the meaning of one word. When people say Republicans don’t care if millions of “those” people die, this isn’t semantics. We’re discussing whether people conform to a word whose meaning we’re all fairly in agreement about.

  97. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    But I think it matters whether this was a hate crime or two liquored-up rednecks forming a posse and shit getting out of hand.

    And here is where we fundamentally disagree. Sure, racism exists on a spectrum, but these two are packed chock-a-block on one end of that spectrum. I can’t even see how you make much of distinction between them.

    But I’m okay with fundamental disagreements. Even when they are about important issues.

  98. Andy says:

    @KM:

    Part of that is inherent to Trump being Trump. He’s inherently divisive and has only gotten worse as he’s devolved.

    Except it’s not just Trump, it’s our collective reaction to Trump. It’s an infection that causes pretty much any discussion devolves into a “debate” about how one feels or thinks about Trump. It’s rarely possible to have discussions about things and ideas unless they are completely divorced from politics and culture war topics.

    Like Steven described, he frequently gets pushback when he, in the eyes of many commenters, does not sufficiently attack Trump or the GOP in a post. Well, not everything is about Trump and it gets tiresome when people presume that the lack of anti-Trump content in a comment or post somehow indicates a pro-Trump or Trump-adjacent view, especially when that person’s view of Trump has already been firmly established.

    1
  99. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner: I don’t think this is difficult. Absent a direct and immediate threat, a hunting trip or a job related requirement, when someone walks out of the house with a gun in their hand at some level they are looking to kill someone, whether they admit it to themselves or not.

    2
  100. 95 South says:

    @Andy: My first thought about the title of this article was “well, it’s possible, but I haven’t seen it yet.”

  101. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan:

    In my statement above I said “I believe” so I was expressing an opinion. That’s because I don’t think I’ve ever seen any research on my proposition (that a large group is actually guided by a small percentage). If there is research on that I’d be interested in it,

    It might be that research into attitudes and behavior of members of police forces shows–or disproves–the correlation you are interested in discovering, but the information I read on it was long ago and I don’t recall anything much about it other than that I wasn’t surprised by the conclusions the researchers were drawing. The trend, as I recall, was that members of the group who didn’t agree with actions taken by others–even when those actions were illegal–still tended to cooperate in protecting the actors for the sake of cohesion.

  102. Jay L Gischer says:

    @95 South: I wasn’t particularly responding to something Teve said.

    For the record, I know multiple Republicans who are no more racist than I am. I would certainly not describe them as white supremacist.

    The Republican Party, beginning somewhere between 1968 and 1972, gave shelter and a new home to many Americans who were, in fact, highly racist and white supremacist. This was the work of Richard Nixon, who told them that the Civil Rights Act was settled law, that he couldn’t change, but he could slow roll enforcement. My source is “Nixonland”, by the way.

    And so lots of the racist politicians, or those who used race as a political tool, regardless of their personal belief, switched to the Republican Party. Others decided to change their politics and remain Democrats. I credit Jesse Jackson for being the guy in the trenches at this time, along with Hubert Humphrey for starting things rolling in 1948, and Lyndon Johnson. Outside of politics of course, there was Martin and many others.

    This is the thing that distresses me about the Republican Party. They are in a terrible fix. They can’t win without these people, and yet winning with them these days gets you presidents like Trump and Senators like Jeff Sessions. (By the way, as little as I liked him, he was still miles better as AG than Barr is. Good lord, Barr is probably the worst we have ever had, and that’s a high bar.)

    Meanwhile, the NC Republican party goes crazy with gerrymandering with the intention of minimizing the impact of black, “Oh no, I meant Democrat!”, votes. Again, this is an institutional thing, not an individual thing. But it also suggests that these Republicans think that they can’t win without discriminating. That’s a bad place to be in.

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  103. Monala says:

    @Kylopod: Yes, thank you!

  104. MarkedMan says:

    @95 South:

    When people say Republicans don’t care if millions of “those” people die, this isn’t semantics

    It’s not as difficult a distinction as you make it to be. The average Republican wouldn’t put kids in cages. But they support the people that do it at a 90% level. They either aren’t sufficiently repulsed by such actions or deliberately choose not to know. The average Republican wouldn’t turn their back on a part of the United States after a horrendous hurricane that killed thousands. But they support the people who did at a 90% level. The average Republican wouldn’t give support to a war where schools and hospitals are deliberately targeted, or break laws to ensure one side gets the bombs to do so. But, etc.

    The Good German isn’t a Godwin’s law trap. The whole point of the concept of The Good German dilemma is that each and every one of us, if we are to lead a good life, must constantly question whether we are endorsing and enabling evil because the people doing it are familiar or interesting.

    So yes, Trump brings up the Good German question directly. Are the people supporting him actually supporting evil? Yes. Yes they are. Is there some countervailing good that Trump is doing that muddies that equation. No. No there isn’t. And that is uncomfortable to accept. But that’s the whole point of the Good German question. It is easy to recognize evil in history and say “I would never participate in that.” But as history has shown us, average citizens do let their countries slide into evil. Checks and balances fail. Politicians and Judges fear to act or become corrupt.

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  105. Kurtz says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Thanks! That means more than I could ever express.

    Your post is important, because it acknowledges one of the most salient sources of political disagreement. It also explains your personal history in a way that speaks to how you came about your view.

    Everyone could (and should) learn a lesson from it. If anyone has justification to get emotional about a topic, it is you, because of your experiences. Yet, you recognize the risks associated with that sort of response. Many of us would find an emotional response from you as entirely appropriate. But you would still go back, and think you made a mistake.

    That is true integrity.

    4
  106. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    As far as I can tell, Republicans just don’t like thinking about the results of their actions. They just don’t like it.

    I would say that the problem is that they don’t like the sound what the results of their actions are said aloud. I think of my parents for example. The very clearly understood that the actions they advocated had specific result in the real world and they were content with those results among family and like-thinking friends, but they didn’t admit to being in favor of those results among the population at large.

    It’s a variation on “I’m not X; why some of my best friends are…,” and I do realize that my parents are anecdotal, but even so, I think they are representative of a pattern that isn’t all that uncommon.

  107. Andy says:

    @Kurtz:

    At any rate, Andy’s voice is much more essential than mine, because the disagreements that I have with Reynolds or Teve are only obvious from within the broader left. If you’re looking at us from the right, we would look nearly identical.

    I appreciate the kind words, but my voice is no more essential than anyone’s. The only different thing about me is that I was one of the few voices here that wasn’t solidly on the left in recent years – with predictable effects. I get the same thing from the opposite side whenever I’m a contrarian in a right-leaning community. That misperception part doesn’t bother me and is just how things work. I disagree with the right and left on many things, so I seek to have debates with those people to hone my own arguments and perhaps learn more about a perspective I don’t understand. Unfortunately, in the age of Trump, few are interested in debate and instead resort to impugning motives, character, and integrity.

    Andy’s criticism of Reynolds is quite fair in some respects, though it would be unfair to say all of his posts lack substance. As someone who has pushed back on both his tone and content before, I can say that Andy has a valid point in his post.

    But to say that Reynolds isn’t valuable would be a vast overstatement.

    I’ve known Michael online since his “Mighty Middle” and Moderate Voice days. We have a pretty long history. I was part of this community for 15 years – as long or longer than Reynolds. He has credibility here, he is not some rando on Reddit or Facebook that’s easy to ignore. I’m very much aware of Michael’s contributions and he has often had a unique and valuable voice or take on various topics. I do not want to diminish his good contributions or say that he is a complete knave.

    I wrote a few months ago that I think the Michael that makes cogent and insightful arguments is a great guy and that I wish he was around more. Unfortunately, there is also a mean, bullying Michael who promotes vile fictions about other people when he should know better. That’s why I cannot sit by and let the bullying and character attacks stand. But neither do I have the time or energy to constantly explain why I’m not a closet Nazi or secret Trump supporter that hates Obama.

    And just to reiterate, this isn’t just about Michael. His behavior is the poster-child for what I’m talking about, and given our long history he is an easy example for me to name specifically, but there are several others who use the same or similar tactics. They are easier to ignore, but there are just too many now.

    Life is short. I used to enjoy coming here and debating with people I “knew” and it was lively, fun, informative, and occasionally combative – just what a good comments section should be. Now it’s, at best, a chore. I felt the constant need to pre-load comments and arguments to try to cut-off the predictable uncharitable responses from people like Michael. That didn’t work. Appealing to a sense of decency didn’t work. Directly asking people like Michael to ask me what my views are instead of assuming them was ignored and didn’t work. I have great respect for James, Steven and Doug, but I’ve long been critical of about the blog moderation and community policies when it comes to personal attacks. It’s clear that’s not changing either. The community itself, judging from the number of upvotes and downvotes from the dumb voting system (yes, my opinion on the voting systems is very unpopular, as regulars will understand), seems to support the use of tone policing, bullying, and ad hominem tactics. My comments in this thread and complaints are not new – this is just the latest in a series going back years where I’ve tried to appeal to commentators the proprietors to encourage a healthier climate here. That, too, hasn’t worked. Well, I’m through trying.

    It’s a big internet and there are plenty of places with lively debate that don’t have people that compare you to Nazi’s and tell you inanities like I secretly love Trump and hate Obama.

    I’ve said my peace, I’m out. Per @Kit’s recommendation I may check back in after the election, but I fear the Trump infection is the new normal.

    6
  108. Matt says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    it’s a culture, particularly in rural America

    Before I moved out of my rural hometown I thought I was an enlightened somewhat left leaning non racist person. It was only after I moved that I started to realize that I was still saying racist things. I just didn’t realize it because what I was saying was the “enlightened” version of the culture I grew up in. It took moving to a much more populated area far from home before I started realizing all the racist shit I was still saying… Just because I wasn’t saying n***er doesn’t mean I wasn’t being racist when I referred to a black man as being “uppity” and such.

    3
  109. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    Because “racist” is a continuum, not a category. Most of us are racist to some degree just because of how humans are wired and have to actively fight our visceral instincts without our rational brain.

    That’s why, if I had to draw a line, I would draw it between the people who want to fight their instincts, and the ones who don’t.

    Also, I have to say that that most depressing thing I’ve read on this site in weeks is the place above where you said:

    If the problem is racism, there’s no fix.

    3
  110. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @KM: Alas, “treating [certain] people like garbage” is part of the culture for a significant portion of the society and probably transcends political partisanship. Humans, as a species, seem to have a need to regard others as lesser beings to themselves. It may be part of the reason that some of us adhere to beliefs in *fictional* and *heavenly* sky fathers: because some of us need every tool at our disposal to counter our nature.

    And some of us certainly do better at the countering our nature thing than others. That part is how disadvantageous the whole “you’re the only Jesus most people will ever meet” thing is to Christianity. I have to assume that other religions have similar problems.

    2
  111. gVOR08 says:

    @Monala: And Hitler was kind to his dog. Except for poisoning it with cyanide. But he only did that the one time. How can we call a man like that a Nazi?

  112. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “But he was licensed to carry a gun and arrest people in rural Georgia for some portions of decades while the fact of his *licensure* having lapsed was ignored for other portions. He had plenty of opportunity to kill a black man and get away with it. The fact he didn’t do it until he was in his 60s get caught/arrested/prosecuted for it until now would indicate to me that he’s an ordinary mild racist…”

    At the risk of seeming like I’m piling on… FTFY.

  113. Kurtz says:

    @MarkedMan:

    […]The Good German isn’t a Godwin’s law trap. […]

    This is a super persuasive post for me. But I am trying to figure out why it strikes me as simultaneously correct and incorrect.

    Here is a preliminary attempt at resolving it.

    If a person thinks their society has reached the only possible moral system of governance, then any response in defense of the system can be justified. After all, there are plenty of people willing to accept the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or Vietnam if they saw them as a necessary protective measure.

    This doesn’t apply to certain subsets of Trump voters e.g. eschatological Christians, nihilistic trolls. But I don’t think your post applies to them either.

    Not sure how I will feel about this view after some more thought.

    1
  114. reid says:

    Count me in as a frequent lurker/occasional poster who would miss the sane voices from the right, like Andy and Hal (who I hope isn’t going anywhere). There’s a reason I keep coming back here: great hosts and a smart (for the most part) commentariat. Real people from all sorts of backgrounds.

    9
  115. Kurtz says:

    @Andy:

    You will be missed. I hope you reconsider. Take care and be safe, my friend.

    3
  116. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Actually, I think one of the reasons you get push back is because you are engaging in a different debate than your correspondents, without either side realizing it.

    This! Earlier today, I stopped reading the comment thread on Dr. Taylor’s post on partisanship because the thread was carrying on, at least to my read of it, it the vein of the previous discussion–where, if you will allow a kind of peculiar comparison, Dr. Taylor was talking apples and the people who were objecting to what he was saying were talking artisan baked goods (or maybe plain, but I try to give credit where I can 🙂 ).

    More similar than apples and car bumpers, but still not even apples and oranges, but close enough to not notice that they are different categories.

    5
  117. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Monala:

    I recall an article written by Ta-Nehisi Coates when he was at the Atlantic that addressed this issue: whether or not you could label someone or some act as racist if the person in question had examples of non-racist actions in their past.

    This is kinda why I keep bringing up the problem with virtue ethics. People tend to break everyone down into two categories, the racists and the non-racists. This is problems in two ways: the racists are treated as intrinsically nonredeemable (which in some ways lets them off the hook for their actions, while simultaneously abandoning any hope for reform), and the non-racists are given a free pass when they do racist things (unless we’re ready to banish them to the racist category, we keep having to excuse racists things they do as harmless).

    We should stop focusing on whether people are racist or not and focus on whether actions are racist or not.

    2
  118. Stormy Dragon says:

    @James Joyner:

    Because “racist” is a continuum, not a category.

    This is a semantic slippery slope fallacy; the fact the boundary between two categories is not sharply defined does not make the categories illegitimate (text book example is arguing that being bald isn’t actually different from having a full head of hair because we can’t define the specific number of hairs where someone goes from one to the other).

    2
  119. rachel says:

    @Teve:

    I could post, “the capital of Montana is Helena”, and that guy would downvote it.

    Of course. The capital of Montana should have been Bannack, or even Virginia City.

  120. Kurtz says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Ha! I just got around to that thread and made a similar comment there. They are trying to answer related, but distinct questions.

  121. Mister Bluster says:

    @95 South:..@KM: That one was me. “95 IQ” didn’t seem worth responding to…

    But you respond anyway. Must be in furtherance of your stated agenda “to find the truth, and to help people who have gotten off-track in their thinking.”

    (for context see this thread at 14:02 and 13:27)

    1
  122. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    The difference—which I presume Steven would readily acknowledge—is that it’s virtually inconceivable that Obama would do such a thing. But he’s right that there’s a natural tendency of partisans to rationalize conduct that they would deplore coming from the other team when their guy is doing it.

    Show me any Democrat who has done something like that and remains prominent in the party. Democrats eat their own.

    When Democrats veer into the crazyland they go off and join the Green Party. 9/11 truth ers, anti-vaxxers, and assorted loons just aren’t welcomed.

    The closest we have is Bernie Sanders — not a Democrat — who is at worst just very wrong about remedies to problems but lives in reality.

    Even personal failings get slapped down. No one has heard of John Edwards in a decade. The guy with a freezer of cash was denounced and went to jail.

    Ok, fine, Bill Clinton slept around, and any reports of rape were dismissed because of the reports of running a drug cartel in Arkansas, and a host of other insane conspiracy theories. I put the ignoring of rape allegations entirely on the shoulders of those who peddled so many false accusations that no one can know what is true or false anymore and promoted the accusations between claims that Vince Foster was murdered by Hillary.

    5
  123. Gustopher says:

    But roughly a third of the country continue to identify with the Republican Party and to support Trump. Racism and “owning the libs” doesn’t explain 100 million Americans.

    Are you sure about that? Maybe not a full third, but a big chunk of that third… perhaps 27% of the total.

    Spite is a powerful motivator. It’s what turned my brothers from apolitical numbnuts into Trump supporters. Well, that and the causal racism.

    2
  124. Gustopher says:

    @drj:

    Want to get rid of the ad hominems?

    Best get rid of the bullshitters first.

    Otherwise you’d end up with endless, patient, fact-based refutations of the same tedious nonsense over and over and over again.

    There’s a fine line between spin and bullshit which would make that hard to enforce.

    One of the regular gadflies has started claiming that Democratic governors seeded nursing homes with coronavirus patients. Wherever the fine line is, it was way before that.

    The only reasonable response to vile lies like that is to not engage, but not let it stand. The equivalent to punching the Nazi.

    I think our fine hosts do a disservice to the community by letting people come and spread hateful lies like that, and that it creates a social norm where punching is accepted. There’s a fuzzy border between punching a Nazi, punching a Good German, and just punching a German.

    1
  125. James Joyner says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Also, I have to say that that most depressing thing I’ve read on this site in weeks is the place above where you said: If the problem is racism, there’s no fix.

    The statement is imprecise, in that we’re clearly a less racist society than we were in 1964, much less 1864. We’re mostly fighting it on different grounds now than we once were. Few, indeed, support African-American slavery, even privately, I’d wager. Still, we abandoned slavery (after a long, bloody civil war) and amended the Constitution to declare black men equal citizens more than a century and a half ago. We’ve had a black man serve as a two-term President. And racism remains a huge issue.

    I don’t think any of us will live to see a day when low-status whites see a black man nosing around a construction site in exactly the same way they see a white man. And likely neither will our grandchildren.

    So, from a public policy standpoint, I think we’re better off focusing on changing laws and the culture in ways that will make it less likely that innocent black men get shot.

    3
  126. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: @Stormy Dragon: I think we’re at the point on this where the partisanship discussion keeps going: we’re talking about different things.

    From literally the first mention of the case, I declared that Arbery would likely be alive today were he white and that the McMichaels men were therefore quite likely garden variety racists. The qualifiers exists because we only have specific evidence of what they did that one day and the broader social context in which it happened to go on.

    My only point in distinguishing being the sort of low-level racism that makes them automatically see a black man at a vacant construction site as a criminal vice hard-core racists who think black men should be murdered is that there are social and legal reforms that could deal with the former. And the former is a much, much bigger problem.

    1
  127. 95 South says:

    @Mister Bluster: I responded with a thumbs down vote as I said. Then I responded to KM’s question.

    I can’t figure out why I’m responding to your comment though. Your recent comments to me have been attempts to make me look bad, but so petty they’re probably hurting you. Why would someone care if I said I didn’t think something was worth responding to but merited a thumbs down vote, and you found it contradictory? What’s your goal?

    1