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. OzarkHillbilly says:


    Even though Florida’s government had told school superintendents that the Advanced Placement Psychology course offered to high school students violated the state’s new law prohibiting instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, it appears students may be able to take the course after all. In a letter to state superintendents Friday, Florida’s education commissioner Manny Diaz Jr said the state believed the psychology course could be taught “in its entirety”.

    Meanwhile, the College Board that develops Advanced Placement (AP) classes accordingly said it was optimistic that Florida teachers would now be able “to teach the full course, including content on gender and sexual orientation, without fear of punishment in the upcoming school year”.

    Nonetheless, despite the assurances, parents and students were left trying to figure out what to do shortly before many schools start their upcoming academic year.

    Whether to stay in Florida or get the fuck out of there is a kitchen table issue for families all over that state. Between the sucky schools, insurance rates that are as much as their mortgage, and their 6+% inflation rate, I wonder how much more they can take.

  2. charontwo says:
  3. Kurtz says:

    I spent a little time thinking of the disenfranchisement thread yesterday. Specifically the notion of forced speech and mandatory voting.

    In my post on the subject, I pushed back against the idea that giving the option to vote “no” or “none of the above” eliminates the risk of forcing speech. But the more I thought about it, I’m a little less sure.

    Three options:

    1.) The addition of “no” for each office.

    2.) The addition of “none of the above” for each office or as a blanket option at the bottom of the ballot.

    3.) Turning in a blank ballot.

    It seems to me that options 1 and 2 can easily be construed as forced speech because it requires an affirmative declaration of opinion even if it may indicate one or more different opinions. Whereas option 3 only declares a refusal to speak at all and is thus no different from not voting at all in a world in which voting is not compulsory.

    Option 3 exists presently for voters if they only partially fill out a ballot. For example, if I only fill the parts of the ballot that are for federal offices only, have I actually spoken beyond votes for those offices? I don’t think so. One could not ascertain why I left those parts of the ballot blank. If I had been required to turn in a ballot, it would be no different.

    This segues to another point Mu took issue with. He rhetorically asked if we really want disinterested, uninformed people voting. I responded that this is the status quo. He disagreed. But let’s be honest, no one is fully informed on every question facing the country. Worse, we have a large fraction of the country that is actively misled on a bunch of issues. I’ll take people who know nothing over people who have been led to believe nonsense and lies. The former can be reasoned with, the latter cannot.

    I note that Steven indicated he is against that policy, but he didn’t elaborate beyond mentioning a couple objections. I’m hoping for a front page post on that subject, because I don’t have a form grasp of the lit on it.

  4. DrDaveT says:


    I note that Steven indicated he is against that policy, but he didn’t elaborate beyond mentioning a couple objections. I’m hoping for a front page post on that subject, because I don’t have a firm grasp of the lit on it.

    Same here. I believe Dr. Taylor when he says that there are good reasons against it; I’d like to be informed about them.

    One feature I would like to preserve, in any system, is a way to distinguish between “I can’t be bothered to vote”, “I am uninformed on this race and therefore have no opinion”, and “None of these candidates is worth voting for.” I want to be able to compile statistics on that last one, at minimum.

  5. MarkedMan says:

    @Kurtz: it defies logic, but the wisdom of the crowd is a real thing. It implies that an an assessment by a sufficient number of people, however uniformed, yields a very good result. In the early twentieth century Sir Francis Galton was arguing with a friend about the absurdity of granting the vote to the poor and ignorant without land. How could such rabble make a choice better than the informed, educated men of society? Given his status it’s not surprising he held this view, but being a first rate scientist he devised an experiment to prove his point. At the time a popular entertainment at county fairs was a sort of a raffle where a prize cattle was put on display and fair goers could buy a guess at the animals weight, with the one closest winning the prize. Galton proposed that this resembled universal sufferage. He pointed out the absurdity of relying on a average of all the guesses of random attendees, who were likely to be bookkeepers or ladies maids and who may have never seen a bull before, much less know how much they weighed. If you had to invest in such an animal, wouldn’t you prefer the assessment of a skilled butcher? The thing is, his experiment proved the opposite. He approached a vendor conducting one of these contests and asked to be given all the slips with the guesses at the end. The average of all of them came to within 1% of the correct weight, actually better than a butcher’s estimate.

    Kudos to Galton for letting the data and results speak for themselves and publishing something that proved him wrong.

  6. charontwo says:


    Donald Trump just may lose the right to do business in New York altogether, which would be another shocking development for the former president.

    The fight over whether Trump can even operate the Trump Organization as a non-fraudulent New York business is coming to a head in the next few months as the case heads to a civil fraud trial in October, and the Trump Organization has failed to carefully keep up with its reporting duties.

    Midway through the case, New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron (The NY “Supreme Court” is just their district courts. The top court in New York is the “Court of Appeals”), who is presiding over the case, granted a New York AG’s motion for an emergency injunction and ongoing monitoring by a neutral, independent special master.

    The State of New York doubted that the Trump Organization would comply with court rules to continue to accurately update its financial posture, deals it had made, etc.

    In granting the motion, Engoron appointed retired Judge Barbara Jones to act as a special master and monitor the financial updates sent by the Trump organization for ongoing financial fraud.

    Now, the special master, Judge Jones, issued a pre-trial report and letter to Judge Engoron.

    Jones finds that the Trump Organization’s submitted financial information to the court and lenders to be “incomplete,” that Defendant “Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust,” has not consistently attested to the accuracy of the statements submitted and failed to account for all ongoing business of the organization, specifically its inconsistently reporting depreciation expenses.

    The case is set for trial in October, and the New York Attorney General’s office has filed the proof of its readiness for the trial.

    Clearly, the Trump Organization is not ready. It is not even up to date.

    The Trump Organization must satisfy Judge Jones regarding the extent and accuracy of its compliance, or it is going to be forced to begin the trial with the assumption that the business is already proven to be an ongoing fraud, at least according to Jones’s findings.


    The biggest hammer that Engoron has is that the trial will begin with a finding that the Trump Organization is currently operating as a fraudulent ongoing business.

    Such a finding would make it near impossible to recover and win the lawsuit over the state of New York, putting Trump’s entire empire at risk as an ongoing entity able to do business in New York, possibly transferring the company’s assets into receivership and sold off.

    Trump is under severe financial pressure right now and requires whatever income these properties provide. To lose them would be devastating.

  7. MarkedMan says:

    @charontwo: one thing that bothers me about this and any number of other articles that try (admirably) to be “just the facts” is that it can come across as if the situation is a result of sloppiness and neglect, when the most realistic reason as to why the Trump organization is not complying is because divulging these facts would demonstrate beyond doubt that the enterprise is indeed criminal and corrupt.

    You see this in political stories too, when, for example, an article focuses on the backlash to a decision to kick black members out of the State House as a result of lack of imagination, which inadvertently gives their political opponents a chance to cry “Racism!” Such articles are so careful to avoid including judgement in their writings that they completely exclude any examination of the most obvious reason: these white assholes are racist to their core and are so outraged that a darkie dares to speak to them disrespectfully that they don’t give a flying f* how it is perceived.

  8. Beth says:


    This is why you hire and PAY good accountants and lawyers. Good accountants can make this stuff incomprehensible and good attorneys can bury it. These artists aren’t cheap.

    My guess is that Trumps people are bad at their jobs. The evidence would be that the Special Master seemed to have figured out their BS rather quickly. I can’t imagine the Master has a ton of resources to go through it.

  9. de stijl says:

    After her death last week I revisited Sinead O’Connor early stuff. I was a huge fan at the time, but I hadn’t listened in decades

    Damn! That is really impressive. A lot of really great songs, and her voice. I love it when she goes into that keening, piercing tone. It’s thrilling and gives me goosebumps.

  10. CSK says:


    Nobody good at his or her job wants to work for Trump. That’s why, if he gets a second term, his cabinet and WH staff will be a pack of thieves and buffoons.

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Beth: But but but trump only hires the BEST people. He told me so.

  12. CSK says:
  13. steve says:

    Trump sues and gets sued by anyone else in his business accounting for the size of his operation. I would think it fair to say that a large portion of his success comes from his legal team and accountants helping him to avoid paying when he should, suing others and avoiding taxes. My view is that the one area he has not scrimped on is lawyers and accountants and it’s one of the reasons he has gotten away with what he does for so long. However, the accountants can only bury so much and under close scrutiny even the best work can be undone. When he was just another sleazy NYC real estate guy its easier to have stuff ignored but he should have been caught long ago.


  14. Sleeping Dog says:

    NYT article this AM to the effect that R primary voters are not particularly motivated by the war on woke, with their real interest being crime and the border/immigration. This is something trump understands, but DeSaster doesn’t.

    Of course, running on crime/immigration is a problem for DeSaster, immigrants aren’t walking into FL and I haven’t heard of any boat people lately, so his only play is to hurt FL businesses that rely on undocumented workers. Crime, hard to sell yourself as the tough on crime candidate when your state has a higher crime rate than NY and CA.

  15. gVOR10 says:

    @CSK: Indeed. Thieves, buffoons, sycophants, true believers, opportunists, hustlers, and activists of various stripes. All in it for themselves or whichever glibertarian billionaire is backing them. Some clowns, some quite competent. At whatever it is they’re trying to do. A very good argument can be made that authoritarian regimes don’t work very well because they’re riddled with rivalries, everyone has their own agenda, and no one is honest with anyone else or der F the leader. Trump’s administration was, and would be again, an illustration of this. But nonetheless, ETTD.

  16. Kathy says:

    I’m close to done with Joe Haldeman’s The Accidental Time Machine

    Pretty good. The thing is it uses the same plot device as a Futurama ep, The Late Philip J. Fry. Namely, no spoilers, a time machine that can only go forward.

    There are differences, and Haldeman’s novel came 3 years before the Futurama ep. I’m not alleging plagiarism, but IMO it’s clear the novel partly inspired the ep. The stories are different, the time machines also, save for the fact they only move forward. Though in both there’s a search for a “backwards time machine.”

    IMO, both also use a gimmick, deus ex machina solution.

  17. Gustopher says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    hard to sell yourself as the tough on crime candidate when your state has a higher crime rate than NY and CA.

    Lying is easy.

    Plus, Florida Man is just part of popular culture. When you factor out the people eating other people’s faces, and focus on the real crime, then it’s clear how much more dangerous NYC is.

  18. Kurtz says:


    I’m not in the least arguing against universal participation. I may not have been clear about that. I’m definitely with @DrDaveT, on the first paragraph. On the second, I would need to weigh that against Steven’s arguments against mandatory voting.

    I know at least one person here has made the point that non-competitive races likely suppress turnout. For some reason, I think it was you. It’s intuitive that some subset of citizens who intend to vote are more likely to let daily activities get in the way of actually taking the time to do it. This is a form of de facto disenfranchisement that feeds cynicism and more non-participation.

    In terms of wisdom of the crowds goes, I’m inclined to think that it probably only works in a fairly limited set of circumstances. I can say that we have access to a lot more beliefs held by individuals than we ever have in history. And there are significant crowds that hold some outlandish beliefs that have been shown to be false. Part of the reason that’s the case is that one charismatic person can induce people to doubt something to believe things that are patently ridiculous and demonstrably false.

    For the specific topic of the franchise, I’m under no illusion that it’s going to get even close to the correct policies most of the time. Rather, it’s one of the few things on which I take an a priori stance: if the State is inevitable, then it can only be legitimate if the governed are universally allowed to participate.

  19. Beth says:


    I won’t speak to accountants, just guess, but as for attorneys its very apparent to me that he’s skimped and screwed over attorneys. He’s also put a good number of them in impossible situations. As an attorney I know that my brethren will put up with A LOT provided they are getting paid well and not getting screwed over.

    You can see this in the difficulty he’s had recently attracting good criminal defense attorneys. He’s also had to pay huge upfront retainers that a person of his “stature” probably could get around. He’s kinda down to the bottom of the barrel and relying on true believers, maniacs and idiots. These aren’t the kind of lawyers that can obfuscate well. They mostly make a lot of noise then get disbarred for stealing from the client trust fund.

    The only reason Trump has a good chance of escaping legal consequences is jury nullification and not the quality of his lawyers.

  20. gVOR10 says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    NYT article this AM to the effect that R primary voters are not particularly motivated by the war on woke, with their real interest being crime and the border/immigration.

    There are some constants in politics. Who do conservatives blame for “woke”? White “elite” liberals. Much as they like owning us libs, who do they blame for crime and immigration? Who would they rather go after?

  21. Beth says:

    I finally have a slow day, so I wanted to share this:

    “Listen to detransitioners” is a common refrain from activists opposed to medical transition, but when you do listen you often find that people who detransition do not claim to have been misdiagnosed, or even that their gender dysphoria has lessened through the alternative approaches they promote. Aldaco does not promise relief for sufferers from gender dysphoria, and has not experienced such relief herself. In place of relief she calls for widespread cultural change to make gender norms less onerous on women, but she does not claim that letting go of those norms for herself eased her distress.

    I think this is a really important point that needs to be spread far and wide.

    By comparison, since my bottom surgery my dysphoria is basically gone. I was on estrogen for 3 days and got out of the shower and said to myself, “oh, this is how normal people feel.” HRT and surgery hasn’t been a magic bullet for me, but it did solve a huge problem. Our brains are wired to ignore trauma and distress to an extent and a lot of Trans people get really good at managing it. For me, now that the screaming is gone I feel like I have more brain to deal with things. Lol, the downside to this is I now have to grieve a life wasted to an extent and deal with the abuse my parents heaped on us as children.

    The whole point of denying gender affirming care to kids and adults is to make us suffer. Cis people don’t understand us and don’t want to, so suffering it is.

    A quick thought experiment for the Cis guys here; how would you feel if you suddenly lost your penis. Maybe it’s gruesome like an accident or cancer or maybe it’s wild like magic. Anyway it occurs, it’s gone. How do you feel? Are you angry that something like that happend? Are you freaked out that your body is no longer “correct”. A sense of frustration cause you can’t have sex like you used to or have to sit to pee. Or something else because one of the most culturally important parts is gone.

    I’ll cheat and tell you how I feel about mine being gone. Absolute and total elation. Like the weight of a thousand planets has been removed from my soul. I will sometimes just put my hand on my crotch and weep with happiness over the flatness. I am whole in a way that I have never experienced in my life.

    This is the happiness that conservatives, Republicans, and TERFs want to deny us. They’d rather have us suffer. And for what?

  22. Gustopher says:

    @Kurtz: Mandatory voting would make a complete mess out of the current soft-disenfranchisement that we often see in Republican led states, where voting is made increasingly difficult based on the color of the skin of people in a precinct.

    Even with just a nominal fine, we would see a difference. You would not only have a positive, affirmed right to vote, but a financial cost to not voting.

    It opens up a lot of possibilities for protecting the right to vote.

    Put a dollar value on disenfranchisement through lack of voting machines and access, and now you have concrete damages that can be sued for, rather than just another court order that they may or may not adhere to, but which they will find a new way to violate the spirit of next time around.

    If the state of Texas faced a class action lawsuit to cover the fines of people who were unable to vote due to lack of access… how much is disenfranchisement worth to Texas?

  23. Gustopher says:


    A quick thought experiment for the Cis guys here; how would you feel if you suddenly lost your penis.

    I’ve spent twenty minutes earlier searching for a pair of nail clippers, and I think I’m about to just give up and buy a new pair at my next opportunity. There are probably three dozen pairs of nail clippers in my house at this point.

    Anyway, I can only assume I would have a house of penises if losing one’s penis was a thing that happened.

  24. Beth says:


    I would have taken mine off years ago and just happened to not put it back on…

  25. Kurtz says:


    Yeah, I just haven’t done the work to find out the negatives, which is why I’m curious to know what data/arguments led Steven to his position.

  26. MarkedMan says:


    I’m not in the least arguing against universal participation.

    I should have been more careful in my reply as I didn’t think you were. I’m amazed by the wisdom of the crowds thing, and just used your comment as a jumping off point.

  27. MarkedMan says:


    Are you angry that something like that happend?

    My most immediate reaction. would be, “Oh shit, how am I going to pee?!” and immediately put down my coffee.

    Given human nature, I assume there is an occasional person for whom transitioning turned out to be a disappointment, because, well, there are a lot of different types of people. But given the effort involved, I assume the vast majority who make it to the end belong there. But truth be told, I am triggered (in a instantaneous reaction sense, not an emotional one) by any statement that includes the words “never”, “always” or “absolutely” and I am incapable of not trying to find exceptions.

  28. Beth says:


    Oh, absolutely there are Detransitioners, they exist. They are a very small minority of a small minority. The biggest reasons seem to be lack of support from family and society, and disappointment with how things turned out (either because of HRT or surgery). The problem is that some Detransitioners gain a level of attention and support from bad actors when they start saying things like gender affirming care should be banned for everyone.

    As for my never, that’s pretty absolute. I’ve been plenty happy before, but I’ve not really experienced peace and happiness like this. It’s like living your life with a couple of maniacs screaming in your ears every day, non-stop. Sleep being your only reprieve. You’d get used to it after a while, but it would suck the whole time. Then if the maniacs one day disappear, your life would get so much better, almost instantly. It wouldn’t solve all your problems, but one ongoing problem would be so much better.

  29. Kurtz says:


    I’ve taken for granted that people would understand me in the past. So I probably over-correct.

  30. Gustopher says:


    The whole point of denying gender affirming care to kids and adults is to make us suffer. Cis people don’t understand us and don’t want to, so suffering it is.

    I do not understand trans people. I do not understand a need to modify the body that way.

    I also can see that people who go through with it are generally much happier afterwards, so I don’t really need to understand it.

    Look, clear results! Do I understand everything involved? No. Do I need to understand to slightly squeamishly* approve and support their rights? Also no.

    Performative cruelty just seems like such a shitty hobby.

    *: I suspect that in 50 years we will have either broken down gender norms, figured out how to treat the mental aspects, improved the surgeries, identified people better earlier, or at least all the now-old people who object or even get squeamish will be dead, and there will be a wider array of options. But right now, it’s absolutely the best option we have.

    I wonder if the 20th century was particularly awful with gender roles, as there are lots of cases of people we would now classify as trans living pretty decently in the 1800s.

    (Warning: middle name is not great)

    Or maybe there are just a handful and we don’t hear about the ones killed for witchcraft or whatever.

  31. Stormy Dragon says:


    The de-transitioning thing basically seems like the reborn version of the “ex-gay” movement from 20 years ago, and I suspect that in five to ten years, most of the detransitioners will have come out as transgender again.

  32. Jax says:

    @Gustopher: We should be really, really honest here that the current transphobic mindset is really just good ol’ boys upset that the hot chick at the bar hitting on them might have a dick. They’ve been taught from birth that all dicks (besides their own) are bad. It’s been beaten and guilt-tripped into them, should they show any interest in dicks that aren’t their own. Also the religious bent towards “the only reason you should have sex is to procreate”. They’re denying their religious upbringing should they fall in love with a hot chick that can’t procreate.

    I honestly think that people are missing this when they wonder why they’ve gotten so transphobic. The OBVIOUS trannies, like RuPaul, who’s been around forever, and the movies like Mrs. Doubtfire and such…..that’s all in “good fun”.

    But when they can’t tell who’s a girl who can procreate anymore? They’re scared and angry.