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:
  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Sign in front of a church:


  3. Kathy says:


    I would like to tack a note on that asking “Is that a fact?”

  4. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: To paraphrase Dick Cheney, Donald Trump proved that facts don’t matter.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: I was gonna put this up and call it, Kathy Bait:

    Prosecutors in Mexico seeking arrest warrants for more than 30 scientists

    Mexico’s scientific community has reacted with outrage after the country’s chief prosecutor requested arrest warrants for 31 scientists, researchers and academics on accusations of organised crime, money laundering and embezzlement – charges that could land them alongside drug cartel kingpins in one of the country’s most notorious lockups.

    A judge at the maximum security Altiplano prison – from which Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán escaped in 2015 – denied granting the arrest warrants on Wednesday. But the federal prosecutor immediately announced plans to pursue arrest warrants for the third time.

    The university professors have been accused of violating a law that prevents members of an advisory board from receiving money from a government science fund. But that law was passed in 2019, and the scientists got the $2.5m years earlier when it was apparently legal. Those involved have denied the funds were illegal or misused.

    The National Council on Science and Technology (Conacyt) has described the reaction to the arrest warrant applications as “a concerted wave of disinformation,”, which was spreading “terror” in the scientific community.

    “They’re talking about funds from illicit origins, and they’re calling it organised crime when it was a [non-profit] organisation,” said Alma Maldonado, investigator with the public research centre Cinvestav. “It’s completely absurd to take it to this level of accusation.”

    But scientists and academics describe the prosecutions as an attempt at silencing them as the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador imposes punishing austerity policies and pays short shrift to science in his response to the pandemic.

    “The message from Conacyt and the prosecutor to the national academic community is strong and clear: if you think differently than us, it’s best you find something else to do,” wrote political economist Javier Aparicio in the newspaper Excélsior.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kylopod: Dick Cheney was wrong tho. Deficits don’t matter only during a GOP administration.

  7. Mimai says:

    A recurring topic on OTB and elsewhere concerns belief systems, identities, etc. COVID and politics are the primary contexts for these discussions.

    For a number of reasons, I’ve been revisiting my own innards wrt beliefs/identities. And having interesting conversations on this front, particularly concerning big shifts, updates, etc to one’s core beliefs/identities.

    This has me curious about the OTB crowd. On what topic – that’s relevant to your core beliefs/identities – have you all made a big shift/update to?

    It’s too easy and self-serving to cite an earlier one (“When I was a teenager I thought Ayn Rand was the shit”). Or to give the typical politician answer (“My biggest weakness? Sometimes I just care too much….or I work too hard and don’t take enough care of myself”). So my question is really focused on the adult you, the more recent the better.

    Also, I’m less curious to hear people’s thoughts about how they (or others) came to adopt such beliefs/identities in the first place…..this is a related but different question and often leads to the same old same old loud agreements about us and them.

    Rather, I’m more interested to hear about the changes, shifts, updates, what have you. Of course, my interests don’t dictate your response, so do as you wish.

    (ps, still feels weird to read OTB and not see (S)Teve around)

  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    My identity is: I reject the idea of identity. I don’t know what it means. We are individual human beings, our identities are all the same: me. We are individual subjectivities, specific and unique.

    If a Venn diagram of my beliefs overlaps with someone else’s, OK, so what? If my skin is the same color as someone else’s, again, so what? It’s not relevant to me except insofar as it may mean a vote for something I like. Which is fine, I’d be happy if more people did things I like, but that would still have no bearing on my ‘identity.’

    I’m a pepper, he’s a pepper, she’s a pepper, we’re a pepper, wouldn’t you like to be a pepper too? Um. . . no. Eeeew. It makes my flesh creep. No, no, no, I’m not an anything, I’m this one dude. The whole idea of identity is intellectually lazy, devoid of rigor, devoid of objective meaning, and frankly dangerous when people fall for it.

  9. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Yes. I’ve never really understood what’s meant by the phrase “identity crisis.” You are what you are. How could you not know it?

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mimai: Nothing comes to mind, but I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “beliefs”.

    I’m a believer in the scientific method, which requires me to be flexible in regards to all other things I might or might not believe in. I am sure some of those beliefs have less to do with science than they do with emotion but until they get challenged, I have no idea.

    At the same time I am old and set in my ways which means I refuse to get a smart phone (every time my wife hands me hers it goes crazy because I touched something… somewhere… somehow… Why would I want that frustration inserted into my every waking moment?) or a hearing aid because that would just be one more damned thing I don’t want to keep track of (not having one makes it easier to ignore people too BONUS!).

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: You are what you are. How could you not know it?

    Quite simply because people lie to themselves all the time. Lying to others is a lot easier if one believes the lie too.

  12. CSK says:

    That’s a bit different, I think. And everyone isn’t a habitual liar. You could even say that people like Trump, who lie reflexively, know who and what they really are, which is why they lie.

  13. Sleeping Dog says:


    I believe that the DSM-V would refer to identity crisis as an Adjustment Disorder. But we don’t want to sound too mental health-ish. God forbid we show susceptibility to a mild psychiatric disorder.

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: I should have separated the two thoughts as one does not beget the 2nd.

    People lie to themselves all the time. It’s how we get 60 yr old hard core fundamentalist Christians with multiple children coming out as gay. It’s how we get alcoholics with multiple DWIs insisting they don’t have a drinking problem. Men who beat up their wives because they love them. And a million other little, much less harmful lies that just make it easier to get up in the morning and continue with a soul sucking existence or just a lousy job.

  15. Jay L Gischer says:

    My biggest shift has got to be with regard to my attitude toward homosexuality and gay people.

    As a young man (in the Stone Age) I thought engaging in homosexual sexual activity was a sin. Mind you, I took pains to make it be no more of a sin than cheating on your spouse, or stealing or lying. But it was a sin. And I had an unease, too. I kind of wanted to back away slowly. At the same time, the campaigns of Anita Bryant, etc. left me cold.

    What changed me was contact with gay people both present and past. For instance composers Tchaikovsky and Britten both were gay, and wow, I didn’t want to have them not be part of my life. And also some acquaintances, and so on.

    So I evolved. Ahem, things got a bit more personal when my daughter came out as a trans woman, but by then I was very much in the mode of “I don’t see the problem here”. Big difference emotionally, and it’s lucky for me that it happened, because otherwise I might have lost a very cool and special person out of my life.

  16. CSK says:

    Certainly. But I still think that’s different from not knowing who or what they are.

    Side note: Didn’t Joan Didion once say that we tell ourselves lies in order to live?

  17. EddieInCA says:


    For me, that’s easy. I’m surprised by how much more liberal I’ve gotten as I’ve gotten older, which goes against most conventional wisdom. I voted for Reagan twice, and even GHW Bush. Starting in 1992, when I voted for Clinton, my “beliefs” evolved. I questioned many of my beliefs and started exploring why I believed why I believed. I’ve not voted GOP since, and I doubt I will do so in the near future.

    I want more equality, so I’ve become much more progressive on taxes and regulation. I want higher earner, myself included, to pay more taxes for better infrastructure, better public schools (even though I don’t have kids), fully funded medicare and social security. I want regulation for water, air, logging, mining, auto MPG standards, and climate change.

    But, having said all that, I’ve been fortunate to work all over this country, and know that my ideals aren’t shared by a big part of the country. That’s why I want to take any small victories I can get. LGBTQ issues are so much better than they were 20-30 years ago. That change has come incrementally, and that’s my issue with the AOCs, and Bernie Sanders’ of the world. They don’t take partial victories. If they can’t have it all, they don’t want any of it. It’s not how the real world works, and it’s frustrating.

    I’m sure I’ll continue to evolve, and who knows what I will think 10 years from now.

  18. Beth says:


    This is something that I find endlessly fascinating. Finally getting the courage to reject and unburden myself of all the myriad masculine identities and beliefs was a huge part of my healing and transition. I strongly disagree with @Michael Reynolds: about how there is only one identity. We have multitudes of identities that inform us and our interactions with ourselves and other people. In some bad cases control and harm us.

    I spend a lot of time examining the various identities that comprise me and make me an actual functioning and interesting person, for good an ill: Trans-woman, Descendant of Northern-Europeans (English, Welsh, Lithuanian), Suicidal Person, Lawyer, Chicagoan (Southside!). There’s probably more, but those are what popped into my head.


    Yes. I’ve never really understood what’s meant by the phrase “identity crisis.” You are what you are. How could you not know it?

    For me it was less about not knowing and more like refusing to know. Some ideas are dangerous and our brains work overtime to protect ourselves from them. Usually results in all sorts of self harm/destruction. When I was going through my identity crisis I could literally feel my brain reprograming itself. It was a weird couple of months.

  19. Michael Reynolds says:


    We have multitudes of identities

    You may, I don’t. For example, I’m theoretically Jewish but if all the anti-semites of the world disappeared it would literally never come up. I just despise the racialism and assorted silliness at the heart of identity, this absurd notion that I’m somehow defined as a person by being included in a set of people – a set invented by someone else, FFS.

    Here, jump in this box, now don’t you feel better?

    If it is absurd to extrapolate from one individual to a large set of people (a race, a gender) then it is equally absurd to assume an individual shares characteristics with a group. A ‘Chicagoan?’ What does that mean? That you’re similar to the almost 9 million people in the Chicago metro? How, aside from the fact that you’re located in Chicago? I think the whole concept is silly, on a par with astrological signs.

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: But I still think that’s different from not knowing who or what they are.

    Not when it is something that goes to the core of one’s being.

    Back in the early 70s, my father had an underling in his department he was pretty close to. Really nice guy. Late 20s, early 30s I’d say, engaged to be married, on his way up the corporate ladder, gonna go far. Weeks before the wedding, he decides he’s gonna be a priest. And is now, the last I heard anyway, somewhere in the Vatican.

    Looking back with a much more mature gaydar, it’s now obvious to me he was/is gay. I think he joined the priesthood to pray away all the impure sinful urges, as opposed to embracing who and what he was. Maybe by now he has, maybe even left the church.

    But it’s not unusual.

    I see people engage in all kinds of self destructive behavior because, “I’m right!”

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Beth: For me it was less about not knowing and more like refusing to know. Some ideas are dangerous and our brains work overtime to protect ourselves from them. Usually results in all sorts of self harm/destruction.

    This. Thank you, Beth.

    @Michael Reynolds: I just despise the racialism and assorted silliness at the heart of identity,

    Are you denying that white Americans have a different experience of life in America than black Americans? Or Latino Americans? Just because you reject racial identity, doesn’t mean anybody else does and doesn’t make it any less real.

  22. Beth says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    But you do have a very important identity: Internet Crank [smiley face emoji]. I kid! I kid!

    But seriously, I get what you’re saying about not being able to extrapolate from the individual to the group. I think it’s actually the opposite way. The group informs the individual. Being from Chicago effects the way I think about things, it effects my voice (I joke with people one the phone that I’m from the Southside and a lot of women here sound like this), there is a whole set of cultural and economic baggage that comes with being from where I’m from. It effects my history and concept of self and m y body.

  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    Do all X have the same Y experiences? No. Clearly not. There’s no such thing as the X experience, singular, there is a spectrum of experiences. To imagine that all X have experience Y is to deny the individual humanity and agency of all members of X. And it’s philosophically simplistic to imagine that even seemingly identical experiences are identically experienced.

    For example: I’ve had a gun pointed at my face. Some people find that traumatizing; I literally never think about unless I’m searching for an example here on OTB. It lives in my memory as, ‘Hah, that was interesting.’ So, even if you and I have what appears to be identical experiences, they are no such thing because all experience is interpreted by our individual brains. In fact you and I literally cannot have the same experience.

  24. Beth says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Here, jump in this box, now don’t you feel better?

    Lol, actually yes, I feel a lot better having ditched a whole lot of masculine identities and habits. Doesn’t mean I’m a catgirl now, but I’m a lot more comfortable (and stronger) in my brain, body and soul now that I don’t have that going on. Or having to wear pants. So freeing not to wear pants.

  25. Michael Reynolds says:

    Yes, of course experience affects you, but I don’t see what that has to do with who you are. You existed prior to the experience. The experience may affect your view of the world, but you remain you. You learn things, you absorb lessons, but you might as well say that memorizing the multiplication tables formed your identity. I mean, we’re both part of the multiplication-knowing identity, I suppose, but we’re also both vertebrates and air breathers and none of that alters the fact that I’m a mass of pink cauliflower inside my over-large skull, and you’re in whatever size skull you have.

    Does your phone become a different phone when you download a new app? No, it’s just the same phone with a new app. Its identity is still, ‘phone.’

  26. Mimai says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    With the flurry of a few keystrokes, decades of social science (and more recently, neuroscience) is summarily dismissed as “devoid of rigor” and hundreds of scientists and philosophers as “intellectually lazy.”

    [less snarky] Do you not identify as a truth seeker?

  27. Elizabeth Parish says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The iPhone of Theseus…

    But who ARE you. Are you simply a ghost haunting a meat sack? Are you simply a bunch of gooey electrons powering the pink cauliflower that has no existence outside of the immediate moment of sensory overdrive.

    Or are you a machine that fundamentally cannot make sense of its own consciousness and needs the frameworks provided by their experiences, their personal histories, their group histories, their religious beliefs, their bodies, art, their children (or lack thereof), their jobs, their desires, the monsters that terrorize them. All of these things build identities which in turn help the meat computer understand itself.

    You may be sui generis, but humanity is not in any fundamental way.

  28. Michael Reynolds says:

    Yes, it is intellectually lazy, rather than treat people as individuals we’re shoehorning them into sets of people. Why? That’s buying into the same kind of generalizations that are the foundation of racism, anti-semitism, misogyny, etc… He’s a ___. She’s a ____. All ____’s are ____.

    You want a fact? Your DNA and its interplay with your experiences, is not identical to the DNA/experience of any other human, ever, in the entire history of the species. Literally no one else in the million year history of homo sapiens has been you. Until you came along, there were zero you’s. When you die, there will be no replacement.

    The sets we choose to create are not chiseled in stone. Just because we have parentheses does not make a set meaningful. We have computers now, we can keep track of individuals, we don’t need to treat them as sets of millions or billions.

  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Reynolds: There’s no such thing as the X experience, singular, there is a spectrum of experiences.

    And nobody is saying otherwise, but black people by and large are loath to call the cops when there is trouble while white people by and large have 911 on speed dial. Why is that? Saying that all black people don’t have the same experiences is just as simplistic as ignoring the commonalities they mostly share.

    I grew up white in the 60s and 70s. Don’t tell me I and every other white person of those years didn’t benefit from our color, because I know better. I heard and saw time and again, “It’s just the way the world is.”

    If you want to believe your individuality rises above such petty concerns you probably have enough money to make it so. Us peons however have to deal with it.

  30. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Yes, of course experience affects you, but I don’t see what that has to do with who you are.

    Come off it Michael, we are formed by our experiences. We learn from experience. You know this.

  31. Michael Reynolds says:

    White privilege is a real thing, and I would never argue otherwise. But that’s society’s decision, not mine. I am not defined by how society treats X. I’m not even defined by how society treats me. Society is like geography, it’s there, it has hills and valleys, but I’m an individual traveling across that geography. I’m not a different person because I’m on a hill or in a valley. My identity does not become ‘guy halfway up that third hill.’

    Look, for whatever reason (my own stupidity) I’ve occupied a very wide range of positions in society. I was the guy cleaning toilets. I was the guy restaurants were terrified of. I was the guy in jail. I was the guy who wrote books. And at each stage society had opinions about who or what I was. When I was cleaning toilets society made assumptions. When I was reviewing restaurants, ditto. But those are the opinions of other people, why in God’s name should I let their opinions define me? I define me to me.

  32. Mimai says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    [sigh] You have constructed a horde of straw men – all individual unicorns no doubt. That’s cool, whatever, murder away.

  33. Michael Reynolds says:


    Come off it Michael, we are formed by our experiences. We learn from experience. You know this.

    I learned not to eat oysters before going on a transatlantic flight. That informed me, but did not define me.

  34. Michael Reynolds says:

    What I find strange is that you feel more comfortable defining yourself in terms of sets of people rather than seeing yourself as unique.

  35. Michael Reynolds says:

    OK, I have a simple analogy. I’m 6’2″. In France, I’m tall. In the Netherlands, I’m average. In the NBA, I’m small. So, am I part of the set of tall people, average people, or small people? Tall, average and short are all descriptors applied by other people, in reference to sets of other people. And when it’s all said and done, how tall am I? Still 6’2″.

  36. Gustopher says:


    I’ve never really understood what’s meant by the phrase “identity crisis.” You are what you are. How could you not know it?

    Most people have very fleeting knowledge of what will make them happy. They pursue things they think will make them happy, or that society tells them will make them happy, and then they feel a little empty inside depending on how wrong they are.

    Do you have no one in your life who makes themself miserable by making the same mistakes over and over? Pursuing the wrong man/woman/enby? Getting high all the time? Working shit jobs because they pay more? Buying things to fill a hole in their life? Not having cats?

    It’s a very rare person who does know themself.

  37. wr says:

    @CSK: “Yes. I’ve never really understood what’s meant by the phrase “identity crisis.” You are what you are. How could you not know it?”

    I suspect this is rhetorical, but just in case — we may be what we are, but we are not always aware of what we are. Often what we are and what we believe we are differ greatly. When we are forced to confront the gulf between the two we have an identity crisis…

  38. George says:


    Are you denying that white Americans have a different experience of life in America than black Americans? Or Latino Americans? Just because you reject racial identity, doesn’t mean anybody else does and doesn’t make it any less real.

    How uniform do you think white American (or Black or Latino) American’s experiences are. Some are homeless, living on the streets, others are billionaires. Some are healthy, some have grave physical or mental disabilities. Some are attractive, some are ugly. Some have talents (intellectual or physical or artistic) and had the resources and support do develop them, others were born with less talents or lacked the resources and support to develop them — even the difference between having a stable home environment as a child or having abusive and/or addicted parents makes a world of difference.

    Race is just one element in that, and typically its a much less important one than health (being born with a severe mental or physical illness for instance), wealth (billionaires of different races have far more in common with each other than they have in common with street people of their same race), and many genetic traits (Einstein and Michael Jordan both had gifts that no amount of effort on my part would have allowed me to match them).

  39. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    My identity is: I reject the idea of identity.

    During David Bowie’s “I’m tired of being David Bowie” phase, when he had the band Tin Machine, he wrote a song for their Tin Machine II album entitled “Baby Universal.” It has the following line:

    Speak in extremes — it will save you time.

    I think of it often when I read your comments that get like this.

    And, it never seems to save you time, as you then spend many, many comments explaining the extreme position in more nuanced ways, arguing against nuance, and generally being an unclear mess of contradictions.

    I really liked Tin Machine. Particularly that second album. I might be one of the very, very few who like it.

  40. EddieInCA says:

    If I were GA Democrats, I’d be inviting Trump to do a rally in GA every month.

    “Having her might be better than having your existing governor,” he said on Saturday at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry on Saturday night.

    The politicians have had a strained relationship since the election. Trump previously lashed out at Kemp for not intervening in the election on his behalf several times, later saying “I’m ashamed that I endorsed him.” He also has made calls for Kemp’s resignation.

    “Stacey, would you like to take his place? It’s okay with me,” Trump said at the Saturday rally.

    This encapsulates perfectly the lack of any sort of strategic thinking on the part of TFG. If he really is intending on running in 2024, why would you be trashing the one guy who can help you in the state. With that comment, which you know will be in attack ads, he not only boosted Abrams while trashing Kemp, but he also guaranteed a depressed turnout from many of his supporters in a state that is increasingly competitive. Georgia and Arizona seem like Virginia, circa 2008. TFG doesn’t do any sort of long term calculation. It’s all id all the time.

  41. Michael Reynolds says:

    Yes, sometimes it takes a while to explain a different paradigm to people who haven’t really given such things much thought. And it takes a while for me to discover whether I’m wrong and someone else has a better point of view on an issue. But what I note upstream is a lot of ‘come on, man,’ and rhetorical questions that amount to, ‘how come you don’t see things the way most people do?’

    What I have not seen is a definition of identity. I have also not seen criteria for why we should deploy our parentheses to define one set as opposed to a different set. Nor a reason why I should feel bound by someone else’s parentheses. Or what the advantage is to seeing myself as a part of a given set.

    And we haven’t even gotten into the fact that ‘identity’ has in the past meant millions of deaths for people crammed into a particular set.

  42. Mister Bluster says:

    @CSK:..You are what you are. How could you not know it?
    I can only assume you are referencing mentally healthy humans here. My mother was diagnosed with Schizophrenia in the mid ’50s when she was 35-36. There were no drugs at the time to manage her symptoms. She had more than a few episodes that demonstrated that she truly did not know who she was. She spent many months even years in State Mental Institutions where she was subject to electroshock therapy which for her was ineffective. Eventually Fluphenazine was developed and under the brand name Prolixin was the drug regimen for her for the rest of her life.
    Beulah Esther Brown
    Rest in a well deserved peace.

  43. Mister Bluster says:

    I try not to think or speak in terms of beliefs. I prefer to state that I do or do not see evidence for phenomena.
    I do see good evidence for the theory of gravity.
    I do not see good evidence for flat earth.

    When some one says that they don’t believe in evolution since it’s just a theory, I tell them that electricity is only a theory and invite them to stick their wet finger in a light socket to test how good a theory it is.

  44. Kingdaddy says:

    Must be fun, being the unmoved mover.

  45. CSK says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    No, I didn’t mean people who suffer from mental illness. I have a longtime dear friend whose stepson is on Prolixin. I know firsthand what a tragedy schizophrenia is for the sufferers and those close to them. I’m truly sorry that your mother had to endure this terrible affliction.

  46. @Michael Reynolds:

    I’m not even defined by how society treats me.

    I define me to me.

    All well and good, but how society treats you can have a rather profound effect on your daily life.

    It makes me think about the signs “I am a man” at the Memphis sanitation workers strike.

    Regardless of anything else, the Black men holding those signs had their lives defined by how society saw them.

  47. @Michael Reynolds:

    What I have not seen is a definition of identity.

    TBH, I am not entirely sure how you are using the term. I think you are rejecting the notion of “identity politics” (defined, in simple terms, as the notion that certain groups have shared interests that can shape their political and policy preferences). Identity politics tend to be most relevant when certain groups (racial, gender, religious, etc) have been systematically abused in some way.

    One can certainly argue about the degree to which group interests should or should not be considered over aggregated individual interests, but you seem to be making some extremist individualism that really does not track.

    First, you clearly have a self-image and I don’t see how self-image is not linked, in some way, to a personal identity.

    Second, whether you like it or not, you are part of broader groups in society, whether you are some fiercely independent person or not (it matters that you are white, male, and straight, regardless of what you think about those facts). Indeed, the fact that you are a wealthy white male is part of why you can assert such independence from identity because all of those are privileged categories in our society regardless of what you think about them.

    In general, when one is part of the groups that are considered “normal” or baseline (and white, male, and straight are all such in the US) then it is easy to eschew identity-related issues, yes?

  48. Jen says:

    @Mimai: Interesting question. I actually have thought quite a bit about this, because my employment track had me working squarely in Republican politics and I am now one of those people registered as an Independent* (technically, in NH it’s “undeclared”) but I vote for Democrats and have for a while.

    I deeply believe in the notion of fairness and justice. When I was a younger person (college and 20s) I think a lot of what I considered to be “fair” was colored by a fair amount of naivete.

    I also came to believe that a lot of Republican solutions weren’t solutions at all, but overly simplistic notions (e.g., “just cut off welfare, people will find jobs if they have to,” “make abortion illegal and you’ll stop abortions,” and “strengthen the border and people will stop coming here” are three such idiotic policy guiding principals for Republicans. Not one of these “solutions” will do what they are suggesting, and people will be hurt in the process.).

    @CSK: I think of “identity crisis” when I see people who attach their value to something external and then lose whatever that is. For example, I’ve known several people who sort of fell apart when they got fired or laid off. If you define yourself through your work, and that goes away, it can leave one feeling very bereft. Of course, we are all more than our jobs, but some people forget that. I also saw several women in my mom’s generation go through major upheavals when their kids left home. They’d defined themselves as mothers for so many years, when that role was no longer a day-to-day set of chores and projects, they felt lost.

    They need to find their way back–ergo, “identity crisis.”

    *I hold a non-partisan town position on the library board, so despite my clear leanings I stay undeclared.

  49. Beth says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Am I understanding you correctly that you believe that identity is something that is solely externally imposed on individuals?

    Not a gotcha, I’m just trying to make sure I clearly understand your position.

  50. de stijl says:


    One day I decided to openly share my mental health proclivities instead of hiding it.

    I was always fiercely private about my mental issues – mostly high levels of anxiety. Perhaps extraordinarily private. I projected happy-go-lucky with a hint of wry for so long – my whole adult life up until – it became ingrained self-identity and default behavior.

    One extended time I pushed my stress level above my ability to cope and deflect, and I broke. As a result I untethered myself from all obligations and withdrew.

    Anxiety became avoidance. Avoidance became agoraphobia. Agoraphobia upped the anxiety. It was a cycle. A spiral. An ouroboros.

    One day I fessed up to a close friend. My head space and my maladaptive recent behavior. That was both really traumatic and extremely freeing.

    I decided to not hide anymore. To not deflect anymore. That if someone asked I would tell. Secrecy was kicking my ass and was obviously making me worse.

    One day I shared openly. This is now my default behavior if someone asks or if it applies.

    There is zero chance I would have typed the above out four years ago. It would have been impossible. I would have rather died.

  51. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Michael Reynolds–intellectual and spiritual monolith. I like it! I had a similar self-image

    when I was 16.

  52. Kathy says:


    That’s one reason the French staged their revolution to destroy absolute monarchy.

  53. de stijl says:


    My fave is Berlin era Bowie. That was my introduction. I was of that age. Eno era Bowie.

    A “Heroes” remake by Motorhead I can appreciate; the Wallflowers’ version just pisses me off.

  54. David S. says:

    @Mimai: I spent about 20, maybe 25, years thinking that my strongest identity was as a writer. I knew in high school that I wanted a night job as a novelist, until it paid the bills, and I was convinced I could do it. I’d done plenty of fiction writing, at that point, not all of it terrible, so this wasn’t ridiculous.

    Eventually, though, I realized that my brain didn’t work like that. The stories my brain tells aren’t stories that can be put down on a page. It might be a neurodivergency; I’ve never been diagnosed with more than ADD; but I simply don’t experience the world in the same way enough people do for my stories to make sense to enough people.

    I still think I’m a writer, but I know my writing will never actually be what I’m known for. My teaching, yes. The systems I’ve built, maybe. But not my writing. So, two years ago, I decided to strategically de-prioritize wanting to write a novel. Twenty years of work and self-development, thrown away, because I no longer believed in myself.

    Fortunately, no one but me cares.

  55. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    TBH, I am not entirely sure how you are using the term.

    It’s an overloaded term with meanings at different levels, from mass group identities to individual.

    When 90% of Blacks vote against Republicans, it’s hard not to see a clear identity marker there, even though it isn’t predictive of Clarance Thomas’s individual behavior.

    If we dug into Clarance Thomas’s psyche, would we find that his relationship to that identity of Black Man In America is strained and that he’s rebelling against it, or that other identity affiliations are stronger, or that he is an iconoclast like Michael Reynolds, in influenced by and standing alone and apart from the rest of humanity?

    At an individual level I would say that identity is the set of beliefs about oneself and ones place in society (and the reinforcing habitual behaviors) that are strong enough to be resistant to contrary evidence (whether or not that evidence comes).

    And I would say that our friend Michael is chock full of that — stronger than most people on this site, probably because clinging to that identity has worked out very well for him in the latter half of his life (roughly about the time most other miscreants would have had it beaten out of them… the life of a grifter and small time thief becomes a colorful past rather than an anchor weighing him down)

    I like Michael. He amuses me. I hope nothing comes along that disabuses him of his notions of himself, because that’s gonna have to be some serious shit.

  56. Gustopher says:


    On what topic – that’s relevant to your core beliefs/identities – have you all made a big shift/update to?

    The biggie in the past decade or so was when my anxiety got to the point where I couldn’t just ignore it, grit my teeth, and push through it. Learning that sometimes strength is acknowledging our weaknesses, and being more flexible than rigid.

    And from there learning that you really can train your mind and take control of how you react, and what type of a person you are. But also that it’s so fucking hard. Leaves me a lot more compassionate for other people in their struggles.

  57. de stijl says:

    @David S.:

    I sympathize. It was my desire too. Cannot plot worth a damn, myself, however.

  58. Mimai says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    you feel more comfortable defining yourself in terms of sets of people rather than seeing yourself as unique

    You’ve got me oh so wrong. I am uber unique. The most special. With a singular wisdom on all things. Just ask me. Or my mom. Or my dog. But only them, no one else.

    Identity is individual and social. We categorize ourselves and are categorized by society. The social categories we put ourselves in (and, yes, we all do this….even unicorns like myself) are part of a structured society and exist only relative to contrasting categories.

    These social categories precede individuals because we are all born into a structured society. We then derive our identity (sense of self) to varying degrees from the social categories we belong to….that we have self-selected and been selected into.

    We all have a unique combination of categories, hence the set of social identities that make the self-concept of you Michael and me Mimai (and others others) is unique.

  59. @Gustopher:

    It’s an overloaded term with meanings at different levels, from mass group identities to individual.

    It certainly can be. I feel like it is being used in multiple ways in this thread, in fact.

    I think MR is saying he doesn’t want to be labeled. I am just saying that we are all labeled, whether we like it or not, and that those labels can have rather profound impacts on us.

    And, moreover, no man is an island, or so I hear.

    I can understand concerns over identity politics, but it strikes me as empirically problematic to pretend like they don’t exist.

  60. de stijl says:


    When I was a late teen / early twenties I was comfortable with my performative non-conformity, but hid my anxiety. (Mostly from myself.)

    Can one not give a fuck, and not suffer aftereffects?

  61. de stijl says:


    Yo, man, I hear you.

  62. de stijl says:


    Every morning I do deep breathing studied exercise. I sit on the bottom basement stair (no street noise). Focus on my diaphragm. Try not to count down like a noob. Find the rhythm.

    Once or twice or zero times a day I briefly mentally withdraw and breathe deep for a bit. Settle my head. No shame. It makes me me. It’s what I do now.

  63. Mimai says:

    @de stijl:

    Can one not give a fuck, and not suffer aftereffects?

    Trade offs, my friend. Pick your poison (“aftereffects”).

    On net, approach is better than avoidance. Oh but for the exceptions!

    It is often the case that not giving a fuck is a charade. That thing…..the one that is garnering no more fucks… still in the driver seat. Indeed, it is often more in control than when garnering the fucks.

  64. MarkedMan says:

    @de stijl: Thanks for sharing that.

  65. Neil Hudelson says:


    That sign made the front page of Reddit a few weeks back.

    It’s a church in my hometown of Paoli, IN.

    The county went for trump in 2020 by a 47 point margin.

  66. CSK says:

    @Neil Hudelson:
    A 47 point margin for Trump. Why am I not surprised?

  67. de stijl says:

    Once I decided that hiding my mental shit was stupid and went loud and proud I re-evaluated my actions and statements when people had come out to me as gay in the past.

    I have always been very open to and supportive of queer neighbors. Even when I was a kid. The unfairness and disparity disturbed me and I wanted equality. It bothered me that it was not now the law of the land. Seemed like an egregious oversight to me, and I was not afraid to say so to basically anyone, if asked. I was bold for the time.

    I underserved the people who came out to me. I went immediately to a message of acceptance and happiness.

    They had prepared for shock or denial or anger and I denied them that. Some part wanted righteous catharsis. I gave them immediate acceptance. I inadvertently kinda fucked up their coming out by not reacting.

    This was mid 80s. I was seriously trying to do my best.

    The strongest was with a super close friend. I said to him “Brad, I got your back. This is not a problem for me. Be you.”

    I talked myself into an issue when I said “I have thought you were gay since I met you and it has never been a problem. This is not a problem and never will be.” I presumed too much there.

    Coming out is fucking hard. I am not gay so I cannot imagine what that is like. I recently got insight per my mental business, but it is not the same. Akin but unalike.

    This was the 80s. I was a pretty extreme outlier on this inclusion viewpoint. And I really did not care if that was a minority viewpoint. Fuck you, you’re wrong.

    Coming out and who you came out to was a big frigging deal and was extremely fraught. In retrospect, I was probably a dubious choice because I provided no catharsis.

    I was just “Cool. Be you.” They wanted more. Tears. Radical acceptance. I was “Yeah. Whatever.”

    I hope I was the practice guy before they came out to Mom and Dad. Use me as practice. I’m totally cool with that.

    I think I inadvertently kinda fucked up three comings out by underplaying it.

    I’m very sorry. I did not mean to do that to you. It was not my intent. I was trying to be supportive.

  68. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Churchians confuse Faith and Belief as being the same thing. Silly creatures LolOlOlolololoLololoLOloLOl

  69. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl:

    Can one not give a fuck, and not suffer aftereffects?

    Only if you don’t give a fuck about the after effects.

    As part of figuring out how to deal with my anxiety, I did MBSR which is basically just applied meditation, and kept that up 30 minutes a day for a year or two (I’m out of the daily habit these days, for better or worse), and just stopping for that long, and not acting, reacting, or dwelling was absolutely liberating. But, it also left me a bit distant — actually distant, not the performative eccentricity distance of my youth.

    Sometimes I wish I could have just a bit more of my obsessive passion still. That’s likely why I slacked off on the meditation. Overall, the changes have been 85% positive, and 15% not.

  70. de stijl says:


    I will never give up passionate. I will never give up me.

    Some meds made me an obscure entity behind a wall of glass observing the world bemusedly and I refused to be that. Will always refuse that.

    That is akin to death. Nope. Will not stand for it.

    I eventually found a state that works. I’m still me and I am not stuck in a frantic loop.

    Right med, right dose, right doc. And if you can, right therapist.

    I have not had a panic attack in nearly 2 & 1/2 years.

    2020 was a good year for introverted anxious people who wanted to engage a head doc. A screen visit is not nearly as daunting as doing it in person.

  71. de stijl says:


    We need a song head cleanser. Something hard and sharp and strong and really dumb.

    I nominate Party Hard by Andrew W. K.

    Your thoughts?

  72. DrDaveT says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    But that’s society’s decision, not mine.

    Unless you are Lucan the Wolf Boy, you are part of society. We are social mammals. To pretend otherwise is just another libertarian fantasy. Yes, it would be lovely if we all treated each other as individuals — but we don’t. And that influences everything about us, including our self-perceived identity as well as our other-perceived identities.

    …which brings me to my answer to Mimai’s question, which is the opposite of yours. My strongest adult change of view was to abandon my firmly held belief that the law should be color-blind and gender-blind and sexuality-blind, and to instead adopt the position that the law should be crafted to minimize bias and protect the groups being systematically discriminated against. The accompanying change was to recognize that meritocracy is a myth, and that discrimination not only works against individuals, it also works against groups as groups, as those groups adapt to the formative pressures being exerted on them.

  73. Mimai says:

    @de stijl:
    You didn’t ask me, so forgive my intrusion. Mr. Brightside seems apropos.

  74. de stijl says:


    Mr. Brightside is fucking awesome! I am totally going to listen to that. I have a toe tap dance move unique to that song. I did this at karaoke. I should be embarrassed but oddly I am not.

    Jimmy Eat World Sweetness

    That is killer.

    (JEW does a banger cover of Party Hard)

  75. de stijl says:

    The Hives

    Hate To Say I Told You So

  76. de stijl says:

    Song 2 by Blur

  77. de stijl says:


    A la the Mr. Brightside vibe but cooler:

    Jennifer She Said

    By Lloyd Cole and the Commotions

  78. de stijl says:

    Lloyd Cole has dozens of brilliant songs.

    Lloyd Cole should be in your rotation.

    She’s A Girl And I’m A Man has a really nice lyric twist where the misogynist narrator has the tables turned on him and she corrects his tongue completely. It turns out to be romantic and sweet when she takes over. It’s a damn good song.

  79. Gustopher says:

    Right now “Corduroy Dreams” by Rex Orange County has been running through my head a lot. Part of the whole “YouTube thinks I’m a 15 year old TikTok enthusiast” weirdness.

    “Yr The Best” by Carpetgarden is also amusing me a lot these days and “The Stand” by Mother Mother. And “Boys Will Be Bugs” by Cavetown.

    I now have Spotify recommending me stuff like this too, because I clearly enjoy it. And podcasts for depressed teenagers, because Spotify thinks I’m a depressed teenager.

    Ok, here’s a more age appropriate suggestion: “Painted Horse” by Deep Purple, originally left off their 1973 album.

  80. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl: this one brings to mind “In Spite of Ourselves” by John Prine and Iris DeMente.

    And somehow that leads to “There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Show, Swears He’s Elvis” by Kristy MacColl.

  81. de stijl says:


    Prine just had a retrospective on the NPR music channel. Last week 10 days ago; in that range. Some anniversary. It was pretty boss.

    No offense, but Deep Purple is not my speed. When I was that age I was into Iggy and The Stooges. Some Bowie. Heavy was done in my book. I was a weird ass kid so do not trust my judgement. The early 70s sucked ass kinda imo. The late 70s was a megaton explosion in the world and in my brain.

    Kirsty MacColl had such a pure voice. A New England is my fave, her stuff with The Pogues. Fuck me she went too soon.

    When I found Neko Case and especially Neko + The New Pornographers I felt that Kirsty vibe.

    Letter From An Occupant is a killer song and Neko nails it.

  82. Jen says:

    @de stijl: I absolutely adore Lloyd Cole, both with The Commotions and as a solo artist. He’s awesome.

  83. de stijl says:


    There is a bit in She’s A Girl after the narrator flips:

    Come over here/
    Hold my stupid hand/
    It’s alright

    Man, it just kills me every time. Every freakin time. That “girl” has that “man’s” number.

    I introduced my buddy to Rattlesnake era Lloyd Cole. That was the roadtrip out to Utah, I believe. He introduced me to Joe Henry.

    Fair trade. Not much to do when you’re driving through Nebraska except watch the horizon and listen.

    Joe Henry, especially with Short Man’s Room, became a treasured experience.

    Plus, Bryce Canyon at dusk into nightfall is truly awe inspiring. We just sat up on a bluff and silently watched it happen.