Sunday’s Forum

Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Kathy says:

    Newsweek has a long piece on the pros, cons, and means of prosecuting Benito.

    The cover photo is a thing of beauty.

  2. Mimai says:

    The issue of “where are the Republican and Conservative commenters?” comes up from time to time. I believe (some) people — ie, the regulars — when they say that they truly want to engage with such commenters.

    I also observe that when such a R/C commenter* appears, they are met with a barrage of questions by multiple regulars (and hosts), demanding that they defend their positions.

    I understand the impulse. I too have questions. I also imagine that from the from the R/C commenter perspective, this is perceived as an attack** and/or is deemed a fruitless and expensive (time, energy, etc) exercise.

    Of course, how the R/C commenter enters the community and/or conversation matters a lot. A lot! And the recent history has not been positive on this front. And still, I think the broader point holds: it takes a special person, with a lot of time and bandwidth on their hands, to wade into “unfriendly” territory for a 1 vs. >1 fight, er, discussion.

    I don’t have a solution to this — I suppose it’s the nature of the beast with such online communities***.

    *I’m not talking about the obvious trolls and provocateurs.
    **Let me get it out of the way so no one else has too: “tough shit” “fuck your fee-fees” etc.
    ***And I didn’t even raise the issue of the frequent, unchallenged remarks casting all R/C leaning people as [insert bad characteristics and behaviors here] — needless to say, this doesn’t foster an inviting vibe for such people.

  3. MarkedMan says:

    @Mimai: If you are talking about GregM form yesterday, he did what many trumpers do – start out by insulting the commentariat here. Now, fair is fair, we most certainly were insulting trumpers before he joined in. But he also immediately put the blame for January 6th on… Nancy Pelosi. You may feel it worth engaging on those terms. I don’t, and so didn’t respond. But it is not in the nature of most people to avoid responding, and to ask the commentariat in general to treat such a poster with kid gloves is a big ask.

  4. @Mimai: It is a legitimate issue (and I especially sensitive to the third item, as it over-simplifies reality).

    @MarkedMan: FWIW, he was far less insulting than most first-time commenters, who never make out of moderation because if your opening salvo is being an utter ass, you aren’t allowed into the party.

    The Pelosi thing does underscore what his media diet must be.

  5. MarkedMan says:

    @Mimai: I can’t find it right now but James Randi once wrote a heartbreaking letter to dowsers. As part of his campaign against charlatans he had tested hundreds of purported dowsers, and of course, none had ever demonstrated any actual dowsing ability. But he came to believe that dowsers weren’t charlatans, i.e. deliberate fakes conning gullible suckers out of their money. Rather, he thought they sincerely believed in their own powers. He would explain his test to them and they would enthusiastically agree that they would score 100% on it, that it was trivially easy. And then when they did no better than chance they often grew confused and disoriented. They might mutter some feeble excuses or just wander off. But not once did this ever change their mind about their abilities.

    Over the years I’ve come across a few others, such as a Physics professor who engaged in years long correspondence with people who had contacted him with the claim that they had found a flaw in Einsteins math. What Randi and the Prof and the others all came to realize was that the people they engaged with were never going to change their mind based on any evidence, because their beliefs were never evidence based to begin with. The belief comes first and then they happen to notice that people talk about “logic” and “proofs” and “evidence” so they go looking for some of that, without ever understanding or even trying to understand what those things really.

    This is actually a pretty good analogy for what I was talking about with the difference between engaged and unengaged trumpers. An unengaged trumper is like someone who heard that dowsing was a good way to locate a well site, and was impressed by the enthusiasm of the dowsers. Given enough evidence, and a level of interest sufficient to listen, you may convince them that dowsing is worthless, but it’s not really going to stick. They don’t really care, and the debunking isn’t going to stick. If they come across another super enthusiastic dowser in a few months they might say, “you know, this guy showed me a lot of evidence that dowsing doesn’t work”, but the dowser will scorn all that and explain at great length how the debunking was flawed because of “reasons” and “math” and “personal anecdotes”, and our unengaged person will pivot again and accept that position for a while.

    The trumpers, of course, are the dowsers themselves. Belief came before any evidence and so cannot be shaken by countervailing facts.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    I considered writing a polite response to GregM. But I’d have written something like, “We don’t care about Trump offering troops to Pelosi because it’s been widely debunked, and didn’t make any sense anyway. And we’re focussed on Trump’s inaction right now because that’s what the last hearing was about.” It’d take real craft and Dr. T level pedagogical patience to write anything like that without sounding condescending, and it was too late in the day to care. Plus there’s the probability that he’s a drive by troll who’d never read the responses.

    That said. We are collectively pretty hard on rightie newcomers. If they’re sincere, one or two polite responses without piling on is appropriate. If they’re trolls, piling on makes their day.

    I’d like to see thoughtful, honest conservative opinion here in the OTB threads. I started reading OTB in the first place because James and Doug offered some of that back in the day. But even NYT and WAPO can’t seem to find thoughtful, honest conservative opinion anymore. Perhaps it’s not to be had.

    I read FOX now and again. You think comment threads here enforce ideological conformity? And supposedly more intellectual sites like Volokh aren’t much better.

  7. Jen says:

    @Mimai: Interesting that you bring this up, because I was thinking about this too.

    There are things that I find problematic right out of the gate. If we take R/C commenters at their word that they really do want to engage, I guess my first question is: do they not anticipate being challenged? Engagement assumes a back-and-forth, and most of the comments I’ve seen follow this pattern:

    R/C commenter says something like “I am here because I want to engage,” but then they drop some random tidbit that very much tips their hand as to where they are getting their news, and when the (fully logical) pile-on ensues, they’ve disappeared. There is no exchange. There is no give and take. There is no backup for the claims.

    I don’t like the appearance of running someone out on the rails if they truly want to debate, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

    Saying something provocative that is demonstrably wrong (or irrelevant) and then disappearing isn’t an exchange of ideas.

  8. CSK says:

    Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. You’re absolutely right. Trump is a man with a well-documented history of draft-dodging, bigotry, unethical business practices, adultery, sexual offenses, blatant social climbing, temper tantrums, cruelty, buffoonery, vulgarity, and pride in his total ignorance of world and domestic affairs.

    Yet the MAGAs insist on seeing this thrice-married pusillanimous oaf not only as the greatest president ever, but as an avatar of courage, a devoted husband, an adoring father, and a devout Christian.

  9. CSK says:

    Well, you see, they’re getting their news from REAL, legitimate sources, such as Just the News, The Gateway Pundit, The Conservative Tree House, et al.

    Forget Fox. They’re all Commie sympazthizers.

  10. @MarkedMan: There are people who are willing to learn nd those who aren’t.

    And even those who aren’t, initially, may change their minds over time (indeed, in my experience it is unlikely to change a mind in the moment, but over time ideas and evidence have a way of taking root, at least in the minds of some).

  11. Beth says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    That’s one of the reasons I keep up on my particular hobby horse over here (and elsewhere). It’s exhausting to try make people understand something complex and esoteric, but the only way to do that is keep at it over and over again.

  12. @CSK: There are, of course, many flavors of Trump voters.

    Some of them are MAGA cultists, if one likes.

    But I can’t stress enough, as I think a lot of people here still seem not to accept it: Roe v. Wade was overturned as a result of Trump appointees. To a WHOLE lot of people, that is a miracle and the culmination of a major, multi-decade fight. Plus, he did get tax cuts and deregulation. And SCOTUS also deepened 2nd amendment rights. There are a lot of reasons why a person might be more than willing to rationalize away a lot of his flaws and behaviors (especially when we are steeped in “bothsiderism” and are taught from babyhood on up that “all politicians are crooks” and such).

  13. @Beth:

    It’s exhausting to try make people understand something complex and esoteric, but the only way to do that is keep at it over and over again.


  14. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Oh, yes, indeed. I was speaking of the true diehard Trump acolytes (notice I didn’t say cult members? 🙂 ) who truly believe Trump is the epitome of virtue and knowledge.

    The point is that even when confronted with a catalogue of Trump’s derelictions, they refuse to believe any of it.

  15. Mimai says:

    David McRaney has written a nice and accessible book that covers much of the relevant terrain. Recently published too. For those who are interested: How Minds Change

  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    I would love to engage a thoughtful Trumper. I’d also love to discuss pots of gold with leprechauns.

  17. Mu Yixiao says:

    It’s either EAA Airventure week, or Wisconsin is being invaded by time travelers–because the skies are full of war planes. 🙂

  18. Mu Yixiao says:


    I also observe that when such a R/C commenter* appears, they are met with a barrage of questions by multiple regulars (and hosts), demanding that they defend their positions.

    I’m going to say this and head out for the rest of the weekend, because I really don’t feel like getting into it.

    I’m moderate-left, agree with 80%+ of the opinions and positions here, am willing to be swayed on another 5%, and would politely debate any of them in order to learn (and hopefully teach a bit). But if I step outside of “approved thoughts”, I get insulted, ridiculed, and treated with sheer hostility.

    The same thing happens to our hosts.

    I don’t see any intelligent conservative being willing to put themselves through that.

  19. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Actually, the book that, to me, best characterizes the thinking of many (not all) of Trump’s defenders is M. Scott Peck, People of the Lie. It’s well worth exploring.

  20. Jay L Gischer says:

    He’s not like the sort of person I talk to here, but I know one man from my dojo with whom we had the following discussion. He said he liked Trump, we asked why was that, he said he was worried about China.

    Trump did basically nothing about China, but he made a lot of fuss about China, that busted into the news. A lot of drama. This is what gets to my friends ears. He is not terribly sophisticated – he sells carpets. I like him a lot, though. He was the first guy to ever throw me seioi nage (it’s quite a ride).

  21. Jen says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    But if I step outside of “approved thoughts”, I get insulted, ridiculed, and treated with sheer hostility.

    You’ve also been willing to dish it out in that vein–I know, as I’ve been on the receiving end of it.

    It’s extremely easy to be misunderstood, misinterpreted, and so on online.

  22. MarkedMan says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I don’t see any intelligent conservative being willing to put themselves through that.

    “That” being every Internet forum that has ever existed?


  23. Scott says:

    Every community has its own personality and norms but I’m always struck by the fundamental differences between online and in person. If you’re home in your neighborhood and are loud and opinionated, you’ll find yourself standing by yourself pretty quickly. If you find yourself in a conversation, you find that everyone pretty much modulates what they say to prevent any real heat. I live in a busy friendly neighborhood where you find yourself chit chatting with your neighbors a lot. Most I have no idea what their political beliefs truly are. Sometimes, I find someone who I have known for years actually surprise me (both for good and bad) with what they think.

    Online, those tendencies to soften the conversation are gone. People ask less questions and just pontificate. It is just too hard and pointless to respond to assertions. Then you are just arguing over the assertions and less about thoughts that are derived from those assertions.

    A couple of weeks back I went to a family wedding. A couple of right wing family members started in on some subject by just blasting out their version of facts and opinion. I just didn’t respond (I hadn’t started drinking yet). Sure enough, the conversation softened, the subject changed, and we enjoyed each others company. That’s the way it should be.

  24. CSK says:

    Trump told TPUSA on Saturday that no president or politician in American history has been more persecuted than he has.

  25. becca says:

    We went down to the locally- called Redneck Riviera for the first time in decades. First beach trip with the grandkids.
    The second day there we found a loaded 9 mm, two extended clips, loose bullets, and a burner phone, all in bag on the road in front of our building. That was fun.
    Other than that, it was like everyone on the beach left any politics at home and just enjoyed themselves. That was very nice.

  26. Mikey says:

    @CSK: Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy were unavailable for comment.

  27. CSK says:

    The names Lincoln and Kennedy might ring a bell with Trump. Garfield* and McKinley he wouldn’t know if he fell over them.

    He might think Garfield is a cartoon cat.

  28. becca says:

    We haven’t been able to go outside since the first of this month. Not without melting into a sweat puddle within minutes. The air quality sucks even on the lake.
    No relief for another week. Ugh.
    We are considering going nomad.

  29. CSK says:

    My sympathies. It was over 100 degrees here today.

  30. Jen says:


    99 here today. In *New Hampshire.* We get a 1-2 day reprieve, then it’s back to the 90’s, for the entirety of the long-range forecast.

    I am not built for this heat. Yes, it is less humid than I had to deal with in Missouri, and lower temps than I had to deal with in Arizona, but this is not New England weather.

  31. Jax says:

    @Jen: I’ve been kinda scoping out places for sale across the country (and Canada), and all of the maps I’ve been looking at show “current temperatures” much higher than where I’m at….even though I’m melting here at high 80’s!

  32. dazedandconfused says:


    A thought struck me when I got to this:

    “It’s frightening to think about what Republicans will do when they’re in power if Garland goes after Trump,”

    If the situation were reversed can anyone imagine today’s Republicans openingly trembling in fear of repercussions like that? Gave it my best shot but failed.

  33. Jax says:

    @dazedandconfused: Every time a Trumpie shows up, they act like we should feel threatened because Hunter Biden might go to jail. Despite all of us declaring “LOCK THEIR ASSES UP!” if they committed a crime, regardless of their party.

    I’m anti-corruption, anti-sedition, and anti-treason, even in my own party. I would not be a Democrat anymore if Joe Biden pulled the same shit Trump did.

  34. Just nutha says:

    @Jax: Congratulations! You’ve just demonstrated why Democrats can’t “give the GQP “a taste of their own medicine.”

  35. Jax says:

    @Just nutha: And we’re apparently gonna lose the midterms because we refuse to go Treason 2.0. (eyeroll)