The Rise of Negative Partisanship

Yes, partisanship is real. And it influences more than just voting behavior.

One consistent theme in the comments on Steven Taylor’s weekend post “Partisanship is Real” is the notion that only members of the other party are influenced by their political leaders on seemingly commonsensical issues like mask-wearing and vaccinations. Alas, while there is definitely some asymmetry of polarization, the evidence simply doesn’t support this.

The political science literature on what has been dubbed “negative partisanship” has been overflowing in recent years, mostly as a function of the extreme sorting of America’s two major political parties and the information environment in which politics are debated. This discussion has spilled over into the popular press as well. I’ll cite a couple of exemplars.

New America’s Lee Drutman, writing at FiveThirtyEight (“How Hatred Came To Dominate American Politics,” October 2020):

Forty years ago, when asked to rate how “favorable and warm” their opinion of each party was, the average Democrat and Republican said they felt OK-ish about the opposite party. But for four decades now, partisans have increasingly turned against each other in an escalating cycle of dislike and distrust — views of the other party are currently at an all-time low.

He attributes this to three overlapping trends:

The first is the steady nationalization of American politics. The second is the sorting of Democrats and Republicans along urban/rural and culturally liberal/culturally conservative lines, and the third is the increasingly narrow margins in national elections.

The post discusses all of these in some detail but this is the bit I find most salient:

Today, it’s simply harder for voters to hold a viewpoint that doesn’t align with their party. For instance, there are far fewer anti-abortion Democrats or abortion-rights Republicans now than 30 years ago because these kinds of stances are unwelcome in the party. Some voters changed their party to match their beliefs; others changed their beliefs to match their party. But ultimately, both shifts contributed to the parties taking clearer and more distinct stances on a growing number of social issues, which led to more and more voters adjusting their views to match their partisanship.

Political scientists have called this process “conflict extension.” The basic idea is that as more issues have become nationalized, partisan conflicts have broadened to absorb these issues. And as the parties have taken clearer national stances, particularly around cultural and identity-based issues, voters sort more clearly into parties based on these stances.

Cultural values are much more connected to geography than economic values. Both the rich and poor live in cities, suburbs and exurbs. But those who are socially liberal tend to live in cities, whereas those who are socially conservative tend to inhabit small towns. This partisan sorting on cultural issues has thus generated a significant partisan density divide. And because geography also corresponds to racial and ethnic diversity (basically, cities are multicultural and exurbs are mostly white), this adds another division onto the partisan divide: race.

With all these identities accumulating on top of each other, partisanship has become a kind of “mega-identity,” as political scientist Lilliana Mason argues, with party identification standing for much, much more. In fact, it’s reached the point that when you meet somebody, you can immediately size them up as a “Trump voter” or a “Biden voter.” That kind of easy stereotyping leads us to see the other party as distant and different. And typically, things that are distant and different are also more threatening.

There’s a whole lot more there and I commend the piece in its entirety but those are the key bits for my narrow point here. While the parties had numerous cross-cutting cleavages even in my political memory (which goes back roughly to 1980) sorting has led to them being mostly reinforcing.

We see this in the polling data as well. Pew Research‘s “Partisan Antipathy: More Intense, More Personal” provides some excellent insights. It’s from October 2019, so the trends are likely further along.

The share of Republicans who give Democrats a “cold” rating on a 0-100 thermometer has risen 14 percentage points since 2016 – with virtually all of the increase coming in “very cold” ratings (0-24). Democrats’ views of Republicans have followed a similar trajectory: 57% give Republicans a very cold rating, up from 41% three years ago.

So, yes, Republicans are slightly more disdainful of Democrats than vice-versa. But the differences are negligible. And, again, this was before more recent events; I wouldn’t be surprised if Democrats have surged past Republicans after the 2020 election and, especially, the events of 6 January.

Where we do see a meaningful difference, though, is in the breakdowns:

My guess is that stems from the different moral frames that adherents are bringing to the table. Liberals view conservatives’ positions on social justice issues as a sign of closed-mindedness if not stupidity, whereas conservatives see liberals’ rejection of American exceptionalism and differing attitudes on immigration as immoral and unpatriotic.

Because of the sorting Drutman describes, we simply spend much less time with people who see the world differently than we used to. Most people in our social and professional circles are likely to vote the same way we do. That simply wasn’t the case 30 or 40 years ago.

Oh, and this is worth noting:

Independents who lean toward the Republican and Democratic parties are much less likely than those who identify with a party to express warm feelings about the people in their own parties. But large majorities of Republican and Democratic leaners give cold ratings to the people in the opposing party, and there are only modest differences between leaners and partisan identifiers in these views. [emphasis mine -jj]

Even though more Americans than ever describe themselves as “independent,” they’re really partisans.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, Democratic Theory, Political Theory, Politics 101
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. drj says:

    The reason that I (and I suspect others) have argued against the continuing usefulness of the term “partisanship” is that the same word is being used to describe radical different behavior. IMO this obfuscates rather than clarifies – whence my objections.

    Rooting, in a general sense, for my political side because they best represent my interests and moral preferences ≠ mindlessly idolizing an obvious incompetent who openly despises me.

    Similarly, hating the other side because they structurally lie and obfuscate, and are, in fact, seeking to institute minority rule ≠ hating the other side based I believe “they” run global conspiracies regarding climate change, election fraud, and perhaps even child molestation.

    There are fundamental, qualitative differences between the two sides – not least of which is the fact that one side is trying to enact reality-based policies and the other is not beholden in any way to what could be described as objective truth.

    Using the same term to describe their respective behaviors obscures rather than illuminates.

    It is simply not helpful and, frankly, veers into bothsiderism.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @drj:

    Rooting, in a general sense, for my political side because they best represent my interests and moral preferences ≠ mindlessly idolizing an obvious incompetent who openly despises me.

    But that’s an incredibly partisan framing! Indeed, the late Rush Limbaugh and others have made that argument about, for example, the overwhelming Black support of Democrats.

    Similarly, hating the other side because they structurally lie and obfuscate ≠ hating the other side based I believe “they” run global conspiracies regarding climate change, election fraud, and perhaps even child molestation.

    Sure. But I’m not sure how garden variety Republican voters (as opposed to their leaders) “structurally lie and obfuscate” and the number of them who are QAnon supporters is relatively small.

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  3. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    But that’s an incredibly partisan framing!

    Which part of it was objectively inaccurate? That’s what I thought.

    I will also note that Drutman does not distinguish self-sorting from the kind of partisanship you are asserting. If people leave the Democratic Party to become Republicans (or vice versa) because of the positions those parties have taken, that’s the opposite of blind partisanship. Similarly, if people change their minds about the validity of some of their own party’s positions, perhaps in response to the caricature of those positions by the opposition, that is not blind partisanship either. A lot of Democrats who used to be uncomfortable with homosexuality are now much less uncomfortable — but there’s no evidence that this is due simply to blind partisanship, as distinct from actual conscious differences in underlying values and beliefs.

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  4. Loviatar says:

    I miss the down vote.

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  5. Modulo Myself says:

    But I’m not sure how garden variety Republican voters (as opposed to their leaders) “structurally lie and obfuscate” and the number of them who are QAnon supporters is relatively small.

    I suspect that a huge number of pro-life supporters are lying about why they really dislike abortion. Same goes with the Republicans who are furious about Dr. Seuss or women in the military or whatever the daily outrage is. It’s not free speech or cancel culture. It’s about uppity black people and gross female bodies. Basically lying about racism is what the Republicans have done since Nixon. Look at what Lee Atwater had to say about it, or look at Andrew Sullivan–that man has built
    a profitable career on advocating for race science while being outraged that anybody might consider him a racist.

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  6. James Joyner says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    It’s about uppity black people and gross female bodies.

    More confirmation of negative partisanship.

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  7. Gustopher says:

    So, yes, Republicans are slightly more disdainful of Democrats than vice-versa. But the differences are negligible.

    I’m reminded of someone complaining that they cannot get a good bagel in Berlin. Sometimes, perfectly accurate statements miss a lot.

    And, again, this was before more recent events; I wouldn’t be surprised if Democrats have surged past Republicans after the 2020 election and, especially, the events of 6 January.

    I am reminded of a quote from Rip Torn’s character on the Larry Sanders show — “When you act like an asshole, people tend to think of you as an asshole.”

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  8. Nightcrawler says:

    Some voters changed their party to match their beliefs; others changed their beliefs to match their party. But ultimately, both shifts contributed to the parties taking clearer and more distinct stances on a growing number of social issues, which led to more and more voters adjusting their views to match their partisanship.

    This perfectly explains what happened to me. I refused to adjust my views to fit an ideology. I simply ditched the BS ideologies and began identifying as politically non-binary.

    On that note, I can understand adjusting your views if time, circumstance, and/or facts cause you to see that your previous viewpoint was wrong or misguided. If this doesn’t happen throughout your life, something is fundamentally wrong. But I’d never adjust my views for no other reason than to conform to an ideology and prove that I’m a “good” [insert ideology here].

    No wonder I don’t get along with anyone.

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  9. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    But that’s an incredibly partisan framing!

    So truth is partisanship now?

    If speaking the truth is an expression of partisanship contra lying as an expression of partisanship then it follows that using the word “partisanship” to denote both activities is misleading. Which is exactly my point.

    and the number of them who are QAnon supporters is relatively small.

    I seem to recall that a majority of House Republicans went for the stolen election narrative.

    And the entire GOP acts like AGW is a liberal hoax. Have you ever thought about the logistics of this? Tens of thousands of scientists across the world involved in the same conspiracy for at least the last 40 years or so?

    The entire GOP is objectively and factually batshit insane.

    Which means that you cannot reasonably compare support for Republicans with support for Democrats.

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  10. Nightcrawler says:

    Regarding that survey, if I were asked, I would say that Republicans are more closed-minded than Dems or other Americans. I base this on my observation that there’s more — god, I hate this phrase, but nothing else fits — diversity of thought on the left than on the right. For example, some Democrats want to build on the ACA, while others want to institute Medicare for All. Republicans, OTOH, all want to abolish the ACA; no other viewpoint is acceptable.

    Regarding those other categories, I would mark R’s and D’s “about the same” on all of them, except for “patriotic.” I have no idea how to answer that, because I don’t even know what that word means anymore. Arguably, it doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s just marketing fluff.

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  11. CSK says:

    @Modulo Myself:
    About 20 years ago, my sister made an astute observation about abortion, which was that if white women didn’t have them, no one would care how many black and brown babies got terminated.

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  12. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    More confirmation of negative partisanship.

    Are you saying that because of the tone of this comment you feel you can assume that the content is irrelevant? That’s certainly what it sounds like you’re saying.

    If he had phrased his statement in appropriate academese citing sociological analysis of underlying factors in opposition to retraction of allegedly racist literature or to abortion rights, would you still call it confirmation of negative partisanship?

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  13. CSK says:

    @Nightcrawler:
    “Patriot” has come to mean MAGA-hat-wearing Trump supporter. Everyone else is a Communist traitor, including Mitt Romney and anyone else who wasn’t 100% behind The Donald.

    I hate hearing the word. It makes me cringe.

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  14. DrDaveT says:

    @Nightcrawler:

    Regarding those other categories, I would mark R’s and D’s “about the same” on all of them, except for “patriotic.”

    R’s and D’s are equally patriotic. However, they have completely disjoint definitions of what it means to be “patriotic”. It would be difficult to craft a poll that could tease out those differences without making it obvious that it was trying to avoid the p-word.

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  15. SKI says:

    Liberals view conservatives’ positions on social justice issues as a sign of closed-mindedness if not stupidity, whereas conservatives see liberals’ rejection of American exceptionalism and differing attitudes on immigration as immoral and unpatriotic.

    While I don’t want to speak for all Democrats (and wouldn’t actually classify myself as liberal), I wouldn’t describe Republicans as “close-minded”. I would describe them as bigoted. Bigoted on the basis of race, religion, gender, etc. It is all about “the other”.

    Serious question: When was the last Republican policy priority that wasn’t defined by who it was opposing?

    Put another way, the GOP is all about who it is against.

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  16. Andy says:

    Essentially our parties are becoming like parties in a parliamentary system, but without any of the redeeming features of either parliamentary parties or a parliamentary system. Basically, we’re getting the worst of both systems.

    Even though more Americans than ever describe themselves as “independent,” they’re really partisans.

    In my view, to be a partisan is to have a strong affinity and bias toward a particular party. “Independents” who don’t have that strong affinity, but simply hate the other party aren’t really partisans in my view. They are really negative partisans or anti-partisans.

    The fact that the “independent” label is growing in popularity, along with the record-high approval among independents and even some partisans for a third party, indicates just how thin the actual support for the two parties is in reality. But we have a system where they are too big to fail, and incapable of any kind of organized reform. Just look at the GoP for how bad it can get.

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  17. James Joyner says:

    @drj:

    So truth is partisanship now?

    Partisanship strongly influences our perception of “truth.” For example,

    The entire GOP is objectively and factually batshit insane.

    Is objectively nonsense. But negative partisanship has you believing it obvious.

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  18. Modulo Myself says:

    @James Joyner:

    Or I’m a white man who grew up in all-white places and have formed his opinion based on experience in the world rather than partisan politics.

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  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    trump.

    I have to work really hard to find *something he did that was not a moral abomination*, and he did it with the help of a lockstep GQP. To reduce that observation to mere partisanship is a gross distortion.

    **and even then I find myself thinking I need to wait for the other shoe to drop

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  20. Monala says:

    @drj: Let’s add this from August 2016:

    Seventy-two percent of registered Republican voters still doubt President Obama’s citizenship, according to a recent NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll conducted in late June and early July of more than 1,700 registered voters. And this skepticism even exists among Republicans high in political knowledge.

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  21. Modulo Myself says:

    @CSK:

    That seems about right. The pro-life movement is a whites-only thing, just like the ‘welfare queen’ is whites-only. Single black women having children are selfish monsters and so is the killing of an innocent white fetus by feminists and liberals.

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  22. Kurtz says:

    @Nightcrawler:

    I base this on my observation that there’s more — god, I hate this phrase, but nothing else fits — diversity of thought on the left than on the right.

    To some extent, this is true for reasons that have nothing to do with partisanship. Conservatism and ideologies that go more rightward have a smaller well from which to draw ideas. If conserving something is the goal, it places hard limits on what can be done to solve a problem.

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  23. Monala says:

    I will point out that as one of the people engaged in the partisanship argument, this

    One consistent theme in the comments on Steven Taylor’s weekend post “Partisanship is Real” is the notion that only members of the other party are influenced by their political leaders on seemingly commonsensical issues like mask-wearing and vaccinations.

    isn’t what I said. I said that Democrats are certainly influenced by Democratic leaders, and gave examples. I added, however, that we are less influenced regarding policy by the words or actions of Republican leaders. (Although we can be energized to vote by Republican leaders).

    Ever heard of Cleek’s Law? “Today’s conservatism is the opposite of what liberals want today, updated daily.” It doesn’t work in the reverse.

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  24. MarkedMan says:

    @drj:

    The reason that I (and I suspect others) have argued against the continuing usefulness of the term “partisanship” is that the same word is being used to describe radical different behavior.

    I think this gets at something important. Let me explain by analogy to a marriage. Sometimes a couple gets into a negative spiral and end up having more and more negative views of each other because they simply will not see each other’s point of view. And other times the negative spiral is caused by one spouse being an abusive alcoholic, a serial philanderer or a manipulative gas-lighter. In both cases a poll would show equal amounts of anger on both sides. The fact that the anger is equal, however, does little to address core problems.

    James, my impression is that you feel that the Republican/Democratic split is closer to the first case, while I think it is firmly in the second. I’m not sure that any amount of discussion can change peoples mind on something like this.

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  25. MarkedMan says:

    @Monala:

    Ever heard of Cleek’s Law? “Today’s conservatism is the opposite of what liberals want today, updated daily.” It doesn’t work in the reverse.

    Very true. I’ve run across one or two exceptions, i.e. Dems who reflexive oppose whatever Republicans say, and found them just as tedious and uninteresting as the many Republicans who do the same.

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  26. charon says:

    @SKI:

    I wouldn’t describe Republicans as “close-minded”.

    People who refuse to read the NYT or watch CNN because their minds might be contaminated are clos minded. People who get angry at being exposed to the NYT or CNN are close minded.

    These are very common conservative behaviors by my experience.

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  27. Monala says:

    @MarkedMan: the thing is, they know this is the case. Why did James and Steven, both men who lean conservative, vote for Hilary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020? Because they know that the GOP has gone off the rails. They’ve written about it plenty. And they know that whatever issues the Democrats have (and we do have them), they’re not comparable to what’s going on in the GOP.

    Where I think they have a point, is that a lot of people don’t follow politics and so only reflexively support their side in voting or opinions, and so we should be careful not to stereotype any individual Republican or Democrat about what they believe or the type of person they are. But a huge number of GOP leaders have become totally shameless, and quite a few followers are as well (for instance, I recall reading something about how many GOP voters may not have heard of Q per se, nor consider themselves Qanon, but they believe the basic Q beliefs about election fraud and pedophile child-trafficking Democrats.)

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  28. Kurtz says:

    @Andy:

    The fact that the “independent” label is growing in popularity, along with the record-high approval among independents and even some partisans for a third party, indicates just how thin the actual support for the two parties is in reality.

    Maybe I’ll look more in depth later, but you’re overselling the “record high.”

    2021: 62%
    2017: 61%
    2015: 60%
    2013: 60%

    Your negative partisan framing seems like a distinction without a difference to me. Why would a self-ID independent hate one of the parties if they didn’t hold some approximation of the preferred party’s ideology?

    In this year’s Gallup poll, 36% of Republican-leaning independents and 40% of Republicans wanted a more conservative third party.*

    Bottom line, a person who votes intermittently, but would never vote for a Dem, is better termed as a less-motivated partisan rather than a negative partisan.

    *what would this even look like?

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  29. Kurtz says:

    @Monala:

    Where I think they have a point, is that a lot of people don’t follow politics and so only reflexively support their side in voting or opinions, and so we should be careful not to stereotype any individual Republican or Democrat about what they believe or the type of person they are.

    This is the heuristic aspect of partisanship, and is usually what I am referring to when I have interjected in discussion between Michael and Steven. We see the most visible partisans–political junkies–but don’t see the people who pay little attention until election time.

    Not to pick on @Mu Yixiao, but he is like a lot of us. He claims he’s independent, but makes clear via his preferences and language that he is conservative. Almost all of us do a similar mental trick regarding partisanship.

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  30. James Joyner says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Are you saying that because of the tone of this comment you feel you can assume that the content is irrelevant? That’s certainly what it sounds like you’re saying.

    If he had phrased his statement in appropriate academese citing sociological analysis of underlying factors in opposition to retraction of allegedly racist literature or to abortion rights, would you still call it confirmation of negative partisanship?

    74,216,154 Americans, comprising 46.9 percent of all citizens who bothered to vote, preferred Trump to Biden. I was not among them. But it’s simply absurd to dismiss that as “It’s about uppity black people and gross female bodies,” especially given that 42 percent of women voters and a not insignificant number of Black voters chose Trump. It’s the creation of an Other, not a rational analysis of a complex phenomenon.

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  31. Michael Reynolds says:

    This is rank both siderism and nothing else, as multiple people upstream have pointed out very effectively. The data is only meaningful if you subtract notions of ‘truth’ and, ‘reality’ from the equation.

    One side is trying desperately to stop American citizens from voting. The other side wants more Americans to vote. So objectively one side opposes democracy itself. That’s not ‘partisan’ analysis, it’s a simple, factual description. I could go on, issue by issue, but again, the point is made: the only way this data is relevant is in a world without facts. You might as well equate flat-earthers with, you know, sane people.

    James, IMO, you’re trying to retcon the last four years and find some way to justify edging back to the GOP. Here’s the problem with that: go ask ANY Republican politician who won the last presidential election fairly and by seven million votes. Any who cannot answer that question accurately are liars or mentally ill. Objectively. And guess what percentage of GOP reps fail that simple test. 90%? 95%

    The GOP is a racist, misogynist, dishonest, antidemocratic, fascistic, white supremacist party. You want to find a way back into that? If not then why are you posting nonsense so transparent that you surely know as well as any of us here do, that it’s bullshit?

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  32. reid says:

    @James Joyner: You seem to be dismissing the valid points being raised here by zeroing in on only the hyperbolic parts that happen to support your thesis.

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  33. Modulo Myself says:

    @James Joyner:

    What my mother used to say when I pointed out that my grandfather was a flat-out racist (never said the n-word though) who belonged to all-white country clubs was that it was more complicated than him simply being a racist. You know what? It wasn’t that complicated. He was a racist. You guys drag out complexity and personality quizzes and somehow the Other when the racism is pretty much there, dead-center, at the heart of the problem. Why? Because you need to evade the truth.

    I mean, from Monala’s comment:
    Seventy-two percent of registered Republican voters still doubt President Obama’s citizenship, according to a recent NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll conducted in late June and early July of more than 1,700 registered voters. And this skepticism even exists among Republicans high in political knowledge.

    What do you think that means other than 72% Republicans hated Obama because he was an uppity black guy?

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  34. Saying that people’s thinking is filtered by a number of factors beyond the purely rational should not be controversial unless anyone really wants to state that they are Vulcans who have completed Kohlinar.

    The whole point is that partisanship (i.e., I belong to/identify with a given party) is likely to cause me to engage in positive motivated thinking towards my group.

    The concept of negative partisanship is largely just the opposite: that my opposition to another party is likely to also motivate behavior and thinking in opposition to that party.

    None of that takes away individual agency, nor does it stop us from being able to make value-based judgments about the behavior of either partisans I like, or partisans I don’t like.

    This isn’t bothersiderism, nor is it a means to excuse the Trump administration’s various sins.

    (In fact, insisting that every attempt at a broad conversation about political behavior is really about defending Republicans, or whatever else, is an example of how partisanship influence thinking about politics. It is possible to talk about human political behavior without it being an endorsement or a criticism about current parties–and if you don’t see that, you might just be letting partisanship override you analysis).

    It is about trying to understand human behavior.

    We are more prone to forgive/support/follow our own side and to do the opposite for the other side.

    (The problem is that most commenters are less interested in explaining behavior as they are in criticizing the behavior that they don’t like. There is nothing wrong with that, but I think a lot of conversation around here misses this distinction).

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  35. Here’s a question: when I note, as I did the other day, that partisanship is clearly influencing attitudes towards vaccines, does anyone think I am defending Republicans? (Or that I am making a positive value judgment of that fact?).

    I will stipulate that the GOP can be fairly described as anti-democratic. I have personally criticized it as such. I think this is normatively bad. But what does that have to do with whether partisanship influences human behavior or not?

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  36. @Monala:

    Ever heard of Cleek’s Law?

    It is something someone on the internet coined and that caught on. It is hardly social science (and it isn’t really a law).

    And I say that agreeing that it does seem like it has some validity, but let’s not kid ourselves about what it actually tells us.

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  37. Monala says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I get that; I know it’s not some established social science principle. But as a descriptor, you don’t hear the opposite: that what liberals believe is whatever is the opposite of what conservatives believe, updated daily. Even when Republicans make such claims (such as the one about how Democrats would stop talking about Covid after the election), they’re generally proved wrong rather quickly.

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  38. Modulo Myself says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I think we’re talking about two different ideas of partisanship. One idea is that many other values precede becoming a Republican or a Democrat. That’s what I imagine partisanship to be based on my experience. The other is that, as I understand it, becoming a Republican or a Democrat dictates your other vales. Once you choose, you’re part of only one group.

    My hunch is that there’s a serious secular/religious divide in this country. Secular people are brought up under a loose confederation of experiences, none of which are dominant. But religious people are brought up in a totalitarian environment where they’re told you are a Christian/Republican/American over and over and over, and there’s no space at all for reflection.

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  39. Gustopher says:

    @Monala:

    what liberals believe is whatever is the opposite of what conservatives believe, updated daily

    I do assume anything that our right-wing friends is a gross-distortion or a flat out lie, and whatever they are in favor of, I start opposed before I learn anything. I might be won over, but my initial response would be to oppose.

    Now I want to start posting pretending to be JKB, but copying the opinions of moderate Democrats rather than neo-fascist and old-school-fascist right-wing lunatics, and then move left to see how far I could twist people into knots.

    (I suspect that would violate the site rules and bring the wrath of our hosts upon me, plus I would have to learn his writing style, and it seems like work, so I won’t…)

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  40. SKI says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    . But religious people are brought up in a totalitarian environment where they’re told you are a Christian/Republican/American over and over and over, and there’s no space at all for reflection.

    Periodic reminder to not say “religious” when you mean Christian.

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  41. MarkedMan says:

    @Kurtz: I agree that Mu Yixiao is more conservative than the norm here, but I haven’t gotten the impression that he’s a reflexive Republican. “Conservative” is relative and most certainly doesn’t automatically imply Republican. And although most people who declare themselves independent simply act like Dems or Repubs who are frustrated with their chosen Party, I don’t think he falls into that category. (You out there Mu Yixiao?)

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  42. Gustopher says:

    @Monala: Also, you’re misstating Cleek’s Law by mentioning belief as you reverse it. Going to the source it is:

    Today’s conservatism is the opposite of what liberals want today, updated daily.

    You will note the complete lack of anything referencing conservatives believing anything. Whether he was just looking for a nice turn of phrase, or whether he was cleverly acknowledging the lack of conservative beliefs, I do not know.

    Who can forget the early 2000s when the Republican Party went from favoring upper class tax cuts (is there any other kind?) because the deficit was shrinking too fast, to favoring upper class tax cuts to stimulate the economy after 9/11? Was there a belief there?

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  43. charon says:

    @SKI:

    Periodic reminder to not say “religious” when you mean Christian.

    Not even all Christians, that is a way of being Christian. And other groups are similar – the Satmar Hasids in Borough Park as an example.

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  44. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    that partisanship is clearly influencing attitudes towards vaccines?

    All due respect, but I think you are crediting too much to partisanship and not enough to other factors in how people group together. (I’m assuming that partisanship means actions people take specifically because of their political affiliation). People group themselves in many ways and for the first time in my life or in my knowledge of American history, the two parties have diverged enough at the national level that they are attracting very different types of people. You seem to be saying (I admit I could be misunderstanding) that the reasons Republicans are say, significantly more reckless when it comes to mask wearing, is because they are responding to the message their party is sending. It seems to me this doesn’t account enough for the fact that people who are likely to be reckless are more attracted to the Republican Party.

    Take a specific person’s decision not to wear a mask in public. That decision is influenced by many factors. To name four:
    1) Their innate personality
    2) The messages coming from the media they chose to consume
    3) What the people around them, those they like and dislike, do, or don’t do
    4) The messages coming from their chosen political party

    In past eras people where much more likely to be more homogenous across parties in 1, 2 and 3 despite their political affiliation. If this had happened in 1957 mask wearing would have been strongly correlated with the first three and weakly correlated with the fourth. But because the Republican Party has attracted large numbers of the type of people that aren’t going to wear masks in an ever more vicious cycle since 1964, mask wearing has become strongly correlated with #4. But the influence of #4 is probably still weak.

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  45. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    74,216,154 Americans, comprising 46.9 percent of all citizens who bothered to vote, preferred Trump to Biden.

    What does that have to do with being against abortion or complaining about canceling Dr. Seuss? The comment you were responding to was about the reasons people take those two specific positions — not about voting habits, or support for a party in general. I think you missed that.

    So the question stands — if @ModuloMyself had phrased his hypothesis less provocatively, would it still be clear confirmation of negative partisanship? Even if he could cite polls or academic studies supporting his position?

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  46. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The problem is that most commenters are less interested in explaining behavior as they are in criticizing the behavior that they don’t like. There is nothing wrong with that, but I think a lot of conversation around here misses this distinction.

    You keep saying this, but some of us think that your attempts to explain Republican (and anti-Republican) behavior are either unsuccessful or circular. Personally, I think this is because the current polarization is way outside the limits of what your model is calibrated for.

    I have no trouble separating my disgust that (say) a large fraction of Republicans believe that Donald Trump actually won the 2020 election from my belief that this is a phenomenon that requires an explanation beyond garden-variety “partisan loyalty”. Thus far, your two responses to that hypothesis have been (1) to dismiss it as mere partisan sentiment on my part, or (2) to interpret it as denigration of your academic expertise.

    The stumbling block seems to be that many of us feel that there is a certain level of detachment from reality and trampling of ethical norms that justifies labeling “those guys” as objectively intellectually and morally broken. James (for certain) and you (as best I can tell) do not recognize that this is possible — there is no possibility of ever objectively concluding that the other guys really are messed up, because objectivity is impossible and all opinions about the other guys are therefore just partisanship in action. Apparently it’s impossible to have a justified negative view of The Other, no matter what The Other actually says or does.

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  47. Nightcrawler says:

    @DrDaveT:

    That’s what I mean when I say that “patriotic” doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s just marketing fluff, like labeling a food “light.” What constitutes “light” differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, and even from item to item.

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  48. Nightcrawler says:

    @CSK:

    I hate it too, because it’s meaningless.

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  49. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: WA! That’s a pointed observation. I don’t know that I would agree with it, but I also wouldn’t cross the street to debate it with her. Certainly it rates as “food for thought.”

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  50. @MarkedMan: Let me be clear: I am not suggesting, at all that the partisanship variable is the sole explanation of any of this.

    Note that the web I used was “influences.”

    And it is also true that some of what you note could influence someone’s partisanship.

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  51. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Here’s a question: when I note, as I did the other day, that partisanship is clearly influencing attitudes towards vaccines, does anyone think I am defending Republicans?

    No.

    Counter-question: when I note that Republicans keeping kids in cages and separating them from their families is horrible, do you think I am denying the influence of partisanship on Democratic views of Republicans?

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  52. Mimai says:

    The human brain is a wonderfully flawed black box. Of particular relevance to the topic under discussion:

    -illusion of asymmetric insight
    -group attribution error
    -third-person effect
    -trait ascription bias
    -out-group homogeneity bias
    -naïve realism

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  53. Slugger says:

    There is a divide, and it is hard to understand the guys on the other side. How can they call themselves patriotic when their leaders scorn people who lost limbs while wearing our country’s uniform or were POWs? How can they call themselves religious when they scorned Jimmy Carter who clearly embodied faithfulness in his life more than any other leader? But that’s reality. We, as a nation, have to overcome these divisions. The horrors of civil strife have played out in a hundred countries in recent history. To me the biggest divide is with people who play around with weapons and inflammatory rhetoric; haven’t they heard of Spain, Ireland, Yugoslavia to pick just a few sites of horror?

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  54. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “It [Cleek’s Law] is hardly social science”

    Does it have more or less of a chance of correctly predicting behavior than most social science rules? Entirely serious question.

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  55. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @SKI: Moreover, I would add that not all Christians are conservatives. When I was still evangelical, I was inclined to believe that conservatives represented a significant majority, but I’m no longer inclined to believe that *Christianity* is as monolithic as some of the commenters here would like to believe; the right wing of that cohort are simply louder and more obnoxious. As to the breakdown, that Christians tend to lean right is probably correct enough, but not an overwhelming majority.

    Then again, I’m probably still more conservative than most people on this forum, but large numbers of *Christians* who know me would say I’m a hopeless Marxist, so the divide is wide if not deep.

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  56. SKI says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker & @charon: Sure but Modulo Man was clearly talking about Christians, even if you want to #notallChristians him.

    It is *very* frustrating for people to just presume that religious = Christian.

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  57. Gustopher says:

    @SKI:

    #notallChristians

    Ok, it’s bad enough we are bashing Christians, but specifically the tall ones?

    At 6 and a half feet tall, I am offended and I eat runts like you for breakfast! 😉

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  58. Kurtz says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I didn’t even imply he’s a Republican. I used him as an example of someone who claims independence, but is a conservative–I chose my words carefully to avoid pinning him to a party for a reason. Specifically because I have no idea how he votes.

    Just about any voting pattern would make sense for him, but not because he doesn’t have a clear preference regarding, for example, the USFG’s role in economic policies like minimum wage. One of the factors would likely be the current state of the GOP. Another factor would be his stated desire for a viable 3rd party.

    He may be a dissident; but he ain’t independent. James may have voted for Biden. But if the GOP nominated Kasich, can we even pretend either James or Mu would vote for a Dem?

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  59. drj says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The problem is that most commenters are less interested in explaining behavior as they are in criticizing the behavior that they don’t like. There is nothing wrong with that, but I think a lot of conversation around here misses this distinction.

    I think this is genuinely unfair. More importantly, it misses the point.

    Broadly speaking, we see two distinct sets of behavior:

    1) Motivated positive thinking about one party’s candidates and policy proposals.

    2) Motivated positive thinking about the other party’s candidates and policy proposals plus a structural, wide-ranging denial of observable reality.

    These types of behavior are qualitatively different. This, by the way, is an observable fact.

    It seems obvious, precisely in order to better understand each of these two distinct types of behavior, that they should be labelled differently.

    “Partisanship” (in the context of a political discussion regarding democratic societies) is not commonly understood as a motivator to believe in far-fetched conspiracy theories. It is, in any case, not how the word was understood and used a generation ago.

    To further illustrate my point, if we were to have a discussion about political behavior in late Weimar Germany it would not be helpful to explain both a vote for the SPD and a vote for the NSDAP through the generic lense of “partisanship.”

    This is not to say that the GOP is comparable to the NSDAP, but to make the argument that at some point symmetry in language is no longer helpful.

    I would argue that the behavior of Democratic and Republican partisans has become sufficiently different that we have reached (and surpassed) that point.

    It’s perfectly fine if you want to disagree with that, but I think it is really not fair to imply that this entire argument is about bashing Republicans rather than understanding why a large part of the population has – in a political identity sense – gone completely off the rails.

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  60. Kurtz says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I didn’t even imply he’s a Republican. I used him as an example of someone who claims independence, but is a conservative–I chose my words carefully to avoid pinning him to a party for a reason.

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  61. @DrDaveT:

    objectively intellectually and morally broken.

    Let me start with this (serious question): what have I written about this topic that would preclude you from making that judgment?

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  62. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DrDaveT: “Apparently it’s impossible to have a justified negative view of The Other, no matter what The Other actually says or does.” For me, the issue is that to the extent that a negative view of The Other is justified, the ability to discuss the issues dissolves away. If The Other are/is broken, so is the system. In much the same way that an organ that is riddled with cancer has to be removed, if The Other is comprehensively negative, it needs to be removed. If The Other is not comprehensively negative, dwelling on the negativity may not be useful in discussing how the nation goes on. And removing The Other is problematical outside of civil war as the means.

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  63. Modulo Myself says:

    @SKI:

    Yeah, I was definitely referring to right-wing Christians, especially the people who talk incessantly about the secular vs the religious. I’m an atheist now, but I was raised in the Episcopal Church and there was never the secular world. It was just the world. But with right-wing Christians, especially people who get really sucked in to the theology of it, you get what is basically a worldview that says everybody is doing what you are doing, like on one side you’re forced to learn the ideology of intelligent design/creationism and the other you are forced to learn the ideology of materialism and evolution.

    To me, it’s a pretty clear line from that belief system to where we are now.

    Personally, I think the religion is not Christianity. It’s American fascism and racism that the Moral Majority and dead-end Cold Warriors/Birchers absorbed in the 70s.

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  64. @DrDaveT:

    Counter-question: when I note that Republicans keeping kids in cages and separating them from their families is horrible, do you think I am denying the influence of partisanship on Democratic views of Republicans?

    I think you are making a moral judgment (one which I agree with).

    That judgment may have nothing to do with your partisan preferences.

    Could your views on the subject be deepened by your animosity for the administration? Maybe. Might you be more forgiving of Obama era policies? Maybe.

    But, again, I have never said that the specific behavior of specific people is what I am attempting to explain.

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  65. @DrDaveT:

    Apparently it’s impossible to have a justified negative view of The Other, no matter what The Other actually says or does.

    I sincerely do not understand how anything I have written would lead one to this conclusion.

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  66. @drj:

    I think this is genuinely unfair. More importantly, it misses the point.

    I am not so sure–although I am sure I am missing some points, since these threads can sometimes be like arguing with a hydra 🙂

    But are not, say DrDaveT’s arguments mostly vested in stating that I am not engaging in the normative judgments he wants me to engage in?

    “Partisanship” (in the context of a political discussion regarding democratic societies) is not commonly understood as a motivator to believe in far-fetched conspiracy theories. It is, in any case, not how the word was understood and used a generation ago.

    What is your definition of “partisanship”?

    if we were to have a discussion about political behavior in late Weimar Germany it would not be helpful to explain both a vote for the SPD and a vote for the NSDAP through the generic lense of “partisanship.”

    Why? (and I ask to try and understand your position, not because I agree or disagree with the statement).

    rather than understanding why a large part of the population has – in a political identity sense – gone completely off the rails.

    Which is a moral judgment, yes?

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  67. And to be clear: I am not opposed to making moral judgments.

    I would also note that a polarized, unrepresentative electoral/governing system coupled with a majority ethnic group that is losing relative power might help contribute to one side “going off the rails” and it might be the partisanship helps draw people into supporting that rail exiting, even if said rail exiting was not the reason for joining the party initially (and it might add to the rationalization of the leaving of the rails).

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  68. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: That’s the nut though isn’t it? If party is strongly correlated with a behavior but weakly causal, that’s a lot less interesting. And of course there is going to be a range for all influences in both correlation and causality. It’s hard to suss it out. We don’t have much control over the variables (at least for any significant length of time) so we need some very clever researchers to tease it out.

    My gut feeling is that right now Dems feel more tightly aligned with their party than Repubs do, and are more likely to follow the Party’s lead, but I have no evidence.

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  69. MarkedMan says:

    @Kurtz:

    I used him as an example of someone who claims independence, but is a conservative

    Oh. Then I am confused. If independent does not refer to party affiliation, then what does it refer to? And why can’t you be independent and conservative?

    Words. Man, sometimes I think 90% of our arguments and 50% of our wars revolve around different meanings of the same words.

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  70. MarkedMan says:

    @MarkedMan: I meant to add that this is literally my definition of an independent:

    James may have voted for Biden. But if the GOP nominated Kasich, can we even pretend either James or Mu would vote for a Dem?

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  71. @Moosebreath:

    Does it have more or less of a chance of correctly predicting behavior than most social science rules? Entirely serious question.

    It probably does a pretty decent job of predicting the way FNC and right-wing talk radio program for the day, but do I think it is useful as a true explanation for what conservatives think (let alone a “law”)? No, I actually don’t. I think it is honestly a caricature, although I get the appeal of said caricature.

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  72. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Let me start with this (serious question): what have I written about this topic that would preclude you from making that judgment?

    To pick a concrete example, the analysis that Republicans were behaving more like a cult than like a political party was dismissed as invective, rather than as analysis of causes and effects.

    It’s not that your stated positions would preclude my making that judgment — it’s that they would apparently preclude you from attributing my judgment to anything but mere partisanship. Despite your earlier protestation that you aren’t claiming that partisan loyalty is the only causal mechanism, I haven’t seen any cases where you assessed any other factor as being more influential or relevant.

    I hope I’m just misunderstanding you. It’s very frustrating. It feels like there is literally nothing negative I could say about Republicans that would not be attributed to my partisan antipathy to Rs — even in cases where you yourself agree with the assertion!

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  73. DrDaveT says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Moreover, I would add that not all Christians are conservatives.

    Doctrinally, my parents are both firmly evangelical Christians, raised in the Southern Baptist fellowship*. Politically, they are both liberal Democrats, verging on Progressive. That makes them unusual, but hardly unique. Mustering as much objectivity as I can manage, I’d say that their politics matches their purported doctrine a lot better than any conservative evangelicals I know.

    *There is no such thing as “the Southern Baptist Church”. The independence of individual congregations, and their right to interpret scripture for themselves, is a core tenet of Baptist theology. This gets lost in the tribal herd behavior of actual human beings.

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  74. MarkedMan says:

    Yep. I just finished the rest of the thread and am entirely satisfied with my comment that 90% of our arguments are over definitions. It seems to me that what Steven is saying is well proven, given his definitions, which I assume are the standard academic definitions in his field. Most of the arguments are based on having different definitions for those terms.

    A researcher studying fetal development may describe a spontaneous loss of the fetus as an abortion. Using that same term at a Baptist convention to describe a miscarriage may provoke emotional reactions.

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  75. SKI says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Personally, I think the religion is not Christianity. It’s American fascism and racism that the Moral Majority and dead-end Cold Warriors/Birchers absorbed in the 70s.

    Sorry but you don’t get to #NoTrueScotsman away that long-standing strain of Christianity.

    And it isn’t limited to recent American history either or obtained from some secular influence. Those elements have long been present in large swathes, but not all, of Christianity.

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  76. Mimai says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Words. Man, sometimes I think 90% of our arguments and 50% of our wars revolve around different meanings of the same words.

    This is Grade A Truth right here.

    If only “we” could channel it in productive as opposed to counterproductive ways…e.g., by asking for clarification instead of assuming intent.

    Of course, that assumes a shared definition of “productive” and “counterproductive.”

    Which illustrates Grade B Truth: it’s turtles all the way down.

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  77. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “It [Cleek’s Law] probably does a pretty decent job of predicting the way FNC and right-wing talk radio program for the day, but do I think it is useful as a true explanation for what conservatives think (let alone a “law”)? No, I actually don’t.”

    I think we are getting well into where we disagree. To me, if it does a good job of predicting what people will do, it is useful by definition, even if it does not provide an explanation for why they do it. Something which explains the past but does not give any insight into the future is far less useful.

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  78. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But, again, I have never said that the specific behavior of specific people is what I am attempting to explain.

    First, thank you for engaging with me on this when you need not. I really do appreciate that.

    Sociology is a useful science, but the only human behavior that exists is the behavior of specific people. It’s one thing to say “I’m modeling the aggregate behavior of groups” — that’s a legitimate endeavor. Even more so if your model can account for forces and factors that can’t be captured by person-on-person interactions. But if your model badly mis-predicts “the specific behavior of specific people”, that’s a reason to question it. Especially if competing models do better.

    Let me offer a neutral analogy. In sabermetrics*, one of the longstanding challenges has been to predict how many runs a team will score, given the individual performances of hitters on the team. There are competing models out there that are essentially indistinguishable in how well they predict team runs per game, or total runs per season, as a function of individual plate appearance outcome rates (singles, doubles, strikeouts, walks, home runs, etc.).

    However, some of those models do significantly better than others at predicting the distribution of how many runs will score in a given inning. And analysts argue (rightly, IMHO) that this is a strong indication that those models are better than the others. It’s not enough to predict the aggregate correctly, if you badly mis-predict the individuals relative to the alternative. The models that mis-predict inning-by-inning outcomes have some structural flaw; they’re missing something important. Not important for predicting total run scoring, but important for understanding the mechanism behind run scoring.

    *You probably know this, but “sabermetrics” is the silly name that Bill James coined for data analytics applied to major league baseball.

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  79. @DrDaveT:

    I hope I’m just misunderstanding you. It’s very frustrating. It feels like there is literally nothing negative I could say about Republicans that would not be attributed to my partisan antipathy to Rs — even in cases where you yourself agree with the assertion!

    That isn’t what I said. Indeed, I said that the moral judgment in question could very much be made outside the partisan frame. (Although I did note a way in which it might).

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  80. @Moosebreath:

    if it does a good job of predicting what people will do, it is useful by definition

    Perhaps I am being too glib: note that I said it might explain how right-wing infotainment chooses their programming. But that isn’t explaining what “conservative” is, unless you think conservativism is just what they are talking about on Hannity tonight.

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  81. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But are not, say DrDaveT’s arguments mostly vested in stating that I am not engaging in the normative judgments he wants me to engage in?

    The recognition that the Republican Party is invested in alternative facts need not be normative. I’m sure Roger Ailes would have both agreed and approved. The question is whether it is possible for a Democrat to observe that the R’s are invested in alternative facts without having that position dismissed as partisan loyalty. I can claim until I’m blue in the face that I’m not making a normative judgment there, I’m making an evidence-based observation of fact. But as your comment here proves, I will not be believed — it will be interpreted as merely normative, not factual.

    You are allowed to set aside your partisan cloak and observe that Republicans are behaving anti-democratically, and no one accuses of you substituting normative judgments for analysis. But apparently I don’t have that privilege.

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  82. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “note that I said it might explain how right-wing infotainment chooses their programming.”

    No, what you said was that it predicts, not explains. There’s a large difference, and one that, as I said, gets well into our disagreement.

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  83. @MarkedMan:

    I just finished the rest of the thread and am entirely satisfied with my comment that 90% of our arguments are over definitions. It seems to me that what Steven is saying is well proven, given his definitions, which I assume are the standard academic definitions in his field. Most of the arguments are based on having different definitions for those terms.

    I think this is very much the case. I am honestly trying to get folks to understand what I am saying and why, and also am operating under the assumption that what I am saying is largely correct, although certainly open to contestation. But until we get to a shared understanding of what we are talking about, real contestation/argument cannot fully be engaged.

    Also: if people don’t want to accept my position, or think it in error, that’s fine–but I would argue that rejection or correction can’t fully take place until we actually understand one another.

    I still think a lot of this thread confuses an empirical attempt at explaining basic behavior with a normative assessment of that behavior. These are two different things, although they can be related.

    Although, as I noted above, I am kind of having three or four (or more) conversations at once (and dipping in and out while doing other things to boot over the course of many hours) so I may have confused, mangled, or misunderstood some of the points in the thread.

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  84. @Moosebreath: Well, I will plead an improper/imprecise choice of word.

    Better yet: I think Cleek’s Law is a clever statement, and it is useful to deploy in an internet conversation. Although the reality is politics is often about opposition, and that runs both ways.

    For example: when the Dems are in the minority in Congress, odds are any given night on the news it would seem to a Rep that all Dems do is oppose what Reps want, yes?

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  85. @Moosebreath: Also, my point was the verb, not the noun. That is, FNC/right-wing talk radio in place of “conservatism” writ large. Those are related but are not the same thing.

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  86. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But that isn’t explaining what “conservative” is, unless you think conservativism is just what they are talking about on Hannity tonight.

    Cleek’s Law has successfully predicted what positions Republican members of the House and Senate would take on every major piece of legislation for the past decade or more, with the possible exceptions of the annual defense authorization acts and one criminal justice reform law. That’s not Hannity; that’s actual government.

    Cleek’s Law predicted that conservatives would oppose the ACA, which had been drafted and enacted originally by conservatives.

    Cleek’s Law predicted that conservatives would say nice things about Vladimir Putin during the Trump administration. That’s a pretty remarkable success. Successfully predicting the unthinkable is strong confirmation.

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  87. @DrDaveT:

    You are allowed to set aside your partisan cloak and observe that Republicans are behaving anti-democratically, and no one accuses of you substituting normative judgments for analysis. But apparently I don’t have that privilege.

    I feel like you are putting words into my mouth, because I have not said any of that.

    I would also say that my views of the GOP are very likely influenced by my partisan preferences.

    To example I used above: I am pretty sure that I was less critical of Obama’s deportation actions that I should have been in an absolute moral sense. I am aware that it is quite likely that my assessments of the actions of specific politicians and policies (both positive and negative) are influenced by my partisan (and other normative) preferences.

    The question is whether it is possible for a Democrat to observe that the R’s are invested in alternative facts without having that position dismissed as partisan loyalty.

    Of course, it is.

    Where in the world did I even suggest that it isn’t?

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  88. @DrDaveT:

    First, thank you for engaging with me on this when you need not. I really do appreciate that.

    I appreciate you saying so. Clearly, I enjoy the back and forth and I am trying to use it to help me understand why I am not sufficiently clear in my statements/explanations. And to better understand my own positions (and where they need to evolve).

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  89. @DrDaveT: Weirdly, partisanship as an explanatory variable would as well.

    But, as a general matter, the notion that one party opposes another is not exactly rocket science, now is it?

    If you are arguing that Cleek’s Law simply means that legislative minorities will normally oppose legislative majorities, then ok. But that isn’t what it says.

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  90. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    For example: when the Dems are in the minority in Congress, odds are any given night on the news it would seem to a Rep that all Dems do is oppose what Reps want, yes?

    No. Seriously, no.

    It is trivially easy to find case after case of minority Democrats (or even majority Democrats) supporting major Republican initiatives. The post-9/11 wars, for a start. “No Child Left Behind” passed the House 381-41. There is no symmetry here; both sides do not do it.

    And that’s just Congress. At the grass roots level, what (or whom) liberals favor does not much respond to changes in whether conservatives agree. The reverse is not true, as we saw with Iran and North Korea and Russian interference in US elections and Syria and Brexit and …

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  91. @DrDaveT:

    The post-9/11 wars, for a start. “No Child Left Behind” passed the House 381-41. There is no symmetry here; both sides do not do it.

    You do realize that was almost 20 years ago, yes?

    And that wasn’t my question in any event.

    Do you think an R watching the news in 2017-2018 (when the Rs controlled Congress) would perceive Ds are being anything other than oppositional to R goals?

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  92. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Where in the world did I even suggest that it isn’t?

    Most recently, it was when you said:

    But are not, say DrDaveT’s arguments mostly vested in stating that I am not engaging in the normative judgments he wants me to engage in?

    As best I can tell, there are literally no words I could use that would cause you to interpret me as wanting you to acknowledge certain objective facts as opposed to “engaging in the normative judgments I want you to engage in”. No matter how much I talk about what is true or false, you hear something about what is good or icky.

    Most of the Republican party believes that Donald Trump actually won the 2020 election, but that it was stolen from him by chicanery. That’s a fact; no normative judgment required. Can simple partisan bias explain this fact? I would argue no — because partisan bias is old and familiar, yet we’ve never had anything like this widespread belief that an election was stolen — tacitly or not-so-tacitly reinforced from the Capitol — in the past. So what is different? What additional factor(s) can explain this anomaly? What other predictions can we make on that basis?

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  93. @DrDaveT:

    But are not, say DrDaveT’s arguments mostly vested in stating that I am not engaging in the normative judgments he wants me to engage in?

    I am not sure how that translates into:

    You are allowed to set aside your partisan cloak and observe that Republicans are behaving anti-democratically, and no one accuses of you substituting normative judgments for analysis. But apparently I don’t have that privilege.

    Also: did you not read the rest of my comment?

    (And I am signing off for the night, lest I dream of debating partisanship and such).

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  94. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Personally, I think this is because the current polarization is way outside the limits of what your model is calibrated for.

    This. I respect the Good Dr’s training and expertise is this area and although I have training and expertise in a different area–the MO is the same: Developing models to describe, explain, and hopefully predict human behavior. There is always the case where the data fits in the model–but the wrong model has been applied.

    You couldn’t explain Jihadis preference for their particular flavor of Islam over others as a form of “partisan loyalty”. You could explain their preference for Islam over Christianity using typical models of tribal preference but to go from garden variety sunni/shia to Jihadi–is a whole ‘nother thing. It would be better explained using a different model.

    These people deny the very reality in front of their faces against tangible evidence. That’s a difference in kind from Politics.

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  95. Mimai says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    These people deny the very reality in front of their faces against tangible evidence.

    Outright denial is, of course, possible….for partisan, cultish, and other reasons (I won’t wade into that debate).

    But it strikes me as just as probable, if not more so, that this is the bastard offspring of constructivism * echo chambers / information bubbles.

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  96. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: are you making a distinction between Republicans and conservatives? If Cleek’s Law was rewritten to be about Republicans and Democrats, would it be more accurate?

    I think it would. I don’t know what the Republicans are these days, but it isn’t conservative.

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  97. drj says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Which is a moral judgment, yes?

    It’s a factual observation, actually.

    It’s not just that the GOP advocates for minority rule – they do so on the basis of a proven lie (massive election fraud).

    It’s not just that the GOP wants to ignore climate change – they do so on the basis of a proven lie (liberal hoax/global conspiracy).

    It’s not just that the GOP wants to ignore Covid-19 – they do so on the basis of a proven lie (it’s no worse than the flu).

    It’s not just that the GOP wants to cut taxes for the rich – they do so on the basis of a proven lie (trickle-down economics).

    And I’m not even touching birtherism and pizza parlor pedophilia here.

    The GOP’s “ideas” are not just morally reprehensible (which they are), they are built on big lies. And it’s the latter part, not the first, that is under discussion here.

    IMO, acceptance of such lies does not fit the “partisanship” framework (as understood in the context of 20th-century US politics). We have squarely moved into “radicalization” territory instead.

    Unless, of course, you want to understand “partisanship” to encompass behavior and attitudes so different from each other that the term becomes meaningless.

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  98. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “For example: when the Dems are in the minority in Congress, odds are any given night on the news it would seem to a Rep that all Dems do is oppose what Reps want, yes?”

    No. This is not borne out by past actions. Democrats have typically given far greater support to Republican initiatives than vice versa, including for Trump’s COVID relief bills, not to mention past items like No Child Left Behind.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “Also, my point was the verb, not the noun. That is, FNC/right-wing talk radio in place of “conservatism” writ large. Those are related but are not the same thing.”

    I think FNC/talk radio/conservatism are nouns. However, it doesn’t matter, as Cleek’s Law explains the actions of conservatives far beyond media personalities, from Congress persons to a significant chunk of the Republican base.

    And all of this is totally eliding my point about the difference between predicting and explaining. If you have a theory which explains the past, but cannot correctly predict the future, it is a poor theory. If you have the ability to correctly predict the future but you don’t know why, you are much further along the path to understanding.

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  99. @Moosebreath: The verbs I was referring to were “predicts” and “explains” (you emphasized the difference in those words in your previous response).

    You are missing my point from that interchange, but ah well.

    Look, if one’s evidence for Cleek’s Law is that Rs can be shown to oppose Ds, that’s not much more than restating that thesis that partisanship matters for the way people think about things.

    In other words, if what Cleek’s Law alleged shows is that Rs are likely to oppose D major legislation, that is not a unique insight.

    And can it be demonstrated that Ds are more prone to cooperation than Rs? Maybe, but you can’t do it via some cherry-picking in a comment thread.

    But of course, “Today’s conservatism is the opposite of what liberals want today, updated daily” is snarkily more than some prediction of opposition, as it asserts that Cs have no beliefs save their opposition to Ls.

    Look, I honestly don’t have time to pull this apart. If you, and others, think Cleek’s Law is really something more powerful than just a clever bit of rhetoric, cool. This is one of these cases where there may be some elements of truth in the statement, but it simply isn’t what this thread is making it out to be.

    It does strike me that I don’t understand why anyone would endorse Cleek’s Law but give me grief about claims that I have made about partisanship.

    The only thing I can think of at the moment is that Cleek’s Law targets and criticizes Conservatives (and makes them sound like mindless opposite machines, while liberals have real views) and the partisanship frame has broad, universal explanations that might imply that all of us are a tad less rational than we like to think we are.

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  100. @drj:

    Unless, of course, you want to understand “partisanship” to encompass behavior and attitudes so different from each other that the term becomes meaningless.

    What is your definition of “partisanship”?

    And what do you think I am saying the usefulness of the terms is?

    Also: I do not dispute the factual basis of your normative critique. But a major problem I am having with your approach is that you are asserting, whether you realize it or not, that normative concerns you have should change the empirical definitions.

    I simply don’t understand why party A acting in a way that is normatively problematic means that partisanship (i.e., adherence to a group which guides how voters/adherents views the world) changes meaning or becomes something else.

    If party A has really terrible ideas and that influences the followers of party A to adopt those ideas, how does the terribleness of the ideas affect what you would call it?

    If party A preaches white supremacy and that further influences adherents to A to be more dedicated to white supremacy or to elect white supremacist candidates why does the content of the partisan message make you want to reject the usages of the term?

    Why would it only be partisanship if party B preaches peace, love, and laughter?

    I keep coming back to the normative with you because you are merging the empirical and the normative and then telling me that that normative assessment is so bad that we can’t use the term partisanship.

    I would note that while an empirical observation can lead to a normative assessment, that they are still two distinct assessments.

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  101. Mimai says:

    I think @DrDaveT briefly noted this above, but there’s been some unstated conflation of individual and group ideology/behavior throughout this discussion, which further contributes to the disagreement.

    I read an interesting article in Aeon yesterday that has some meta-relevance to this discussion. It’s about psychology, myth, and the mind.

    One passage that I’m reminded of as I’ve followed the current discussion: Conceiving of psychology as a mythology enables us to perceive that psychology is an explicit portrayal of what we want to understand about reality and the ultimately pragmatic forms that such knowledge has taken. The emotional need to possess explanations worthy of the commitment of belief is greater than what we can ever know.

    The terms “normative” and “sociology” have also been tossed about in the current discussion. I think they are relevant as standalones, but this discussion seems very much driven by their combination: “normative sociology” – the study of what the causes of problems ought to be.

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  102. drj says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I simply don’t understand why party A acting in a way that is normatively problematic means that partisanship (i.e., adherence to a group which guides how voters/adherents views the world) changes meaning or becomes something else.

    Well, that’s not what I am saying (at all).

    What I am saying is that a limited amount of motivated reasoning in support of your preferred political candidates is qualitatively different from an outright denial of reality.

    I didn’t mention the SDP and NSDAP because social democrats are good and Nazis are bad, but because the SPD advocated for a social progressive policy (the merits of which are at least debatable) and the NSDAP claimed that Germany lost WW1 because of the Jews (which is demonstrably nonsense).

    I keep coming back to the normative with you because you are merging the empirical and the normative

    It’s not I who is merging the two. It just so happens that it generally requires (big) lies to sell policies that are morally questionable.

    It is the lies that I am focusing on here, rather than the moral quality of the proposed policies.

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  103. Gavin says:

    Hate, Inc is looking more accurate every day.

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  104. @drj:

    What I am saying is that a limited amount of motivated reasoning in support of your preferred political candidates is qualitatively different from an outright denial of reality.

    It is unclear to me why “outright denial of reality” can’t be helped along by partisanship.

    It’s not I who is merging the two.

    I disagree, and I would like to pursue why further (simply put: you keep coming back to how bad the GOP are and I simply reject that their badness obviates what I have been saying about partisanship).

    It is the lies that I am focusing on here, rather than the moral quality of the proposed policies.

    That someone lies is an empirically confirmable circumstance. That lying is bad is a normative judgment. And so focusing on the lies and their moral quality is, by definition, focusing on the normative component of the conversation.

    Further, I would argue that there is no reason why lies can’t influence partisans.

    In the interest of work getting done and such, I am going to stop participation in this thread knowing that this conversation will live on in some future place.

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  105. MarkedMan says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Democrats have typically given far greater support to Republican initiatives than vice versa, including for Trump’s COVID relief bills, not to mention past items like No Child Left Behind.

    This is a reflection of how partisan Congress is, with the Dems being much more non-partisan than the Repubs, but it doesn’t really indicate how partisan the Dem voters are, at least not directly. Dem politicians backed those bills for various reasons, but how much of an impact did they and other Party leaders have on the average Dem voter’s acceptance? It’s hard to determine. I think it’s fair to say that the number of voters on either side who knew what was in those bills at a deep and detailed level was vanishingly small. So their opinion on the bill had to come from a) the broad outlines of the bills that were available in the press, b) the opinions of those they trusted, and c) reaction to the opinions of those they didn’t trust.

    To me, the partisanship question boils down to the impact of the portion of b that is comprised of leaders in their party, and the opposite impact of the portion of C that is comprised of leaders of the other party.

    It’s obvious from the data Steven has shown that voters are extremely partisan if we accept Steven’s definition which I understand to be “strong correlation”. But if we are looking for the impact of what their parties leaders are saying, that’s a lot harder to determine. My instincts tell me that it is relatively small, and media plays a much higher role, and that it goes up and down but in 2021 the Dems are more likely to trust what their Party leaders are saying than the Repubs. After 5 years of “RINO!” and having “The Best” turn overnight into “The Worst”, I imagine Repubs don’t know who to trust, at least as far as Party leaders go.

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  106. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “And can it be demonstrated that Ds are more prone to cooperation than Rs? Maybe, but you can’t do it via some cherry-picking in a comment thread.”

    You also cannot do it by rejecting any evidence out of hand, rather than responding to it. Such a course does not seem to be a good way to proceed if you are interested in explaining what is happening.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And since we are getting nowhere when I respond to what you say to me, let’s try this with what you say to other people:

    “It is unclear to me why “outright denial of reality” can’t be helped along by partisanship.”

    It can be, but only actually is in the case of one party in this country. Therefore, an explanation of why some people outright deny reality which only deals with partisanship is missing something large, and is therefore not useful as an explanation for what is actually happening.

    “That someone lies is an empirically confirmable circumstance. That lying is bad is a normative judgment. And so focusing on the lies and their moral quality is, by definition, focusing on the normative component of the conversation.”

    Since the “moral quality” in the sentence that you quoted deals not with lies, but with proposed policies (which drj explicitly said he was not focusing on), he was not focusing on the normative component of the conversation, but rather the part which was confirmable, and therefore useful when one looks to explain things.

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  107. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    That someone lies is an empirically confirmable circumstance. That lying is bad is a normative judgment.

    Exactly! And when we want to talk about the fact of the lying, and its causes…

    And so focusing on the lies and their moral quality is, by definition, focusing on the normative component of the conversation.

    …you do this, and insist that we are talking about the moral quality and not the fact. Every time.

    Why don’t you believe us when we say we want to talk about the empirically confirmable circumstances, and whether they can be explained by ordinary partisanship?

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  108. Kurtz says:

    @MarkedMan:

    As I attempted to explain my post…I realized the train had left the station. I don’t even know what the destination was, so it’s probably better I lost the ticket.

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  109. Andy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Yep. I just finished the rest of the thread and am entirely satisfied with my comment that 90% of our arguments are over definitions. It seems to me that what Steven is saying is well proven, given his definitions, which I assume are the standard academic definitions in his field. Most of the arguments are based on having different definitions for those terms.

    After reading through the thread that’s my sense too.

    I have a few more thoughts:

    There is also a lack of specificity. Here at OTB I frequently see the words “Republican” and “conservative” thrown around, usually followed by a bunch of invectives. But it’s really difficult for me to know who exactly is being labeled with that because it’s just thrown around without any context. Based on previous comments here over the years, “Republican” can mean anything along a spectrum ranging from everyone who voted for a Republican politician recently at one end, all the way down to only the core party leadership (such as it is) and party activists at the other end.

    The two ends of that spectrum are actually quite different. I think that’s what James is getting at here:

    74,216,154 Americans, comprising 46.9 percent of all citizens who bothered to vote, preferred Trump to Biden. I was not among them. But it’s simply absurd to dismiss that as “It’s about uppity black people and gross female bodies,” especially given that 42 percent of women voters and a not insignificant number of Black voters chose Trump. It’s the creation of an Other, not a rational analysis of a complex phenomenon.

    Unless you specify which people or groups you intended to include in these terms, then we have to assume.

    There is an essential difference between nonpolitical, low-information Republican voters and the elites of the party and right-wing movement who do nothing else but politics – especially those who essentially spend their lives on Twitter, cable news and other cultural commanding heights. Many times it appears that commenters here do not acknowledge any difference or believe that there isn’t any difference between individuals on this spectrum.

    It’s the cliche of painting with too broad a brush.

    The second point I want to make – and many of you may not like to hear this – is that a lot of conversational dynamics, assumptions, arguments, and rhetorical tools used here are identical to what I see in right-of-center forums only in the opposite direction. In a lot of ways it really is like that old Star Trek episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.”

    In most right-of-center forums I read, all “Democrats” and “liberals/progressives” are too-frequently lumped together and conjoined with whoever is the bete noir of the day for the right (often the “squad”). Normal voters who happened to vote for the Democratic party are often viewed as no different from the party’s most radical elements – at best they are stupid enablers who don’t understand what’s best for them. Instead of Fox News, talk radio and the Koch brothers here, over there you get MSNBC, the MSN, and George Soros.

    Another identical aspect is the completely self-assured ability to see and understand the motivations and intentions of the other side (which are always bad/evil). Adherents on one side always seem to think they are the foremost experts on the motivations, goals, and intentions of the other side.

    I think anyone who claims to only make arguments based on facts and science needs to recognize that mind-reading is not possible. Presuming one knows the motivations and intentions of another is not the same thing as actually knowing them.

    And lest I be too critical, I’ll hasten to say that this mirror-imaging is perfectly normal ingroup and outgroup behavior that’s built-in to us as a species. And lest people think I’m being too preachy or that I alone am immune, let me assure you that I fall into that trap myself all the time despite my best efforts, and despite the fact that I’ve had some professional training to try to avoid this. When I read an argument or a point or even a screed, I instinctively leap in my mind to an initial take that relies primarily on a combination of what “box” I’ve put that person in as well as “cui bono?” A lot of the time I don’t realize I’m doing that until later.

    The problem of mind-sets and unconscious mental framing is real.

    I mention all this hoping for a little more humility when it comes to judging other people – particularly faceless groups of others known only by an imperfect short-hand like “conservative” or “liberal.”

    My preference is to always try to focus on the merits of actual arguments and try to avoid divining motivations, assuming intentions, and then making arguments that rely on my (usually wrong) assessment. Too often I don’t succeed, but I think it’s important to try. I think this is especially important if one is actually trying to convince others to change their minds. I’ve yet to see any instance where impugning motives or assuming intentions actually works – usually it’s the opposite. And if one’s argument is actually sound on the merits and is based on clear principles, then turning to motives and intentions isn’t necessary.

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  110. Kurtz says:

    @Andy:

    Yes, all of this. I do my best to avoid all of that stuff. I’m sure I fail way more often than I would like.

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  111. de stijl says:

    I am an example of an anti-partisan.

    The Ds align with me more times than most. They are mostly for things I would like to be enacted – general rule. They sorta don’t suck.

    But I wouldn’t vote for a R if you put a gun to my head. I instantly sort proposals by Rs into the reject bin because I learn from recent exhibited behavior.

    Rs behave politically way worse than Ds do and are unapologetic and brazen about doing so.

    There is literally no future me that would ever vote for an R candidate for anything. Self-identification as such makes you hopelessly tainted in my book.

    Major behavioral changes sustained over time would be the minimum requirement for me to even consider. They seem incapable of that and are decidedly leaning into the opposite of that.

    Ds are my go-to because I hate Rs and their proposed policy. Ds more often than not align with my thinking. Rs never do, and call me traitor. Fuck them.

    You could call me a poster child for negative partisanship.

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  112. Andy says:

    @de stijl:

    There is literally no future me that would ever vote for an R candidate for anything. Self-identification as such makes you hopelessly tainted in my book.

    I live in a pretty red district in a blue state (Colorado). The area here is not entirely Republican at the local level, but the GoP is dominant. It’s not as bad as some areas of the country where the primary is the only election that matters, but it’s close. There is regularly 30-45% support for Democratic candidates, even in contests where they don’t have a chance, and occasionally a Democrat will win.

    In almost every case regardless of the office, I find what information I can about all the candidates – even for the small offices. It doesn’t take much time – a few hours every couple of years. I consider it my civic duty.

    During the 2018 mid-terms there were several state and local races including one for the county coroner. The incumbent was a Republican and had held the position for a long time. The coroner is a position that really requires more qualifications than a typical political office – such as an actual medical degree. The GoP incumbent had all the qualifications and had been doing the job for several years. I couldn’t find any bad information about his job performance.

    Turning to the Democratic challenger, it was some random guy who hadn’t been to college. He had no experience or qualifications for the office. His only “platform” for the challenge was something about making the coroner’s office be more forthcoming about releasing information. There’s probably a backstory there, but I didn’t look up the details and the candidate didn’t offer anything else.

    Now, given this choice, I voted for the Republican incumbent. I think doing otherwise would have abdicated my responsibility to my community. The coroner is an important job even if it’s one that’s underappreciated. I was annoyed that the Democratic party could not find someone with any competence or training to run for the position as a challenger. Had they done that, I might have voted for them instead. Instead, they ran a nobody – the guy didn’t even qualify as a dilettante.

    Despite this, he still got, IIRC, somewhere around 35% of the vote. Now, ask yourself, why would so many vote for a person who is patently unqualified for the office? I think the obvious answer is Pavlovian party-line voting. I have a hard time believe that tens of thousands of voters carefully considered the two options and decided that the unqualified nobody was the best choice. The most charitable case that could be made is that they are Democratic voters who made a reasonable assumption that their party would at least put someone on the ticket who was minimally qualified. And the party failed them.

    That’s not the only case of that happening – there are usually a couple of those every major election cycle. Yet the partisan voting pattern is almost always the same. This is just a problem with Democrats. Even when I was in a solidly D area when I lived in Ohio, there were plenty of Pavlovian R voters who reliably voted for incompetents and even criminals the local GoP let run as Republicans.

    So when someone says they wouldn’t ever vote for an R (or a D, or any other label), I immediately think of these cases and it reaffirms my own desire to not outsource my votes to a brand.

    So the TLDR version is that I take a different view than you do. As someone who is not an R, I would appreciate some actual choices and alternatives where I live. The Democratic Party ought to at least provide credible alternatives, yet they regularly don’t. I’m not going to reward a party with my vote that didn’t take candidate selection part seriously.

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  113. de stijl says:

    @Andy:

    I consider it my civic duty to not vote for assholes with shit values. YMMV.

    If they show better behavior over time they will suck less, but I still won’t vote for them.

    I too like mental openness, but I won’t vote for obviously bad people.

    I’m all for redemption, but it requires a sincere effort and compensatory actions.

    Being open to people who abuse me and mine for sport and political gain is not anything I am ever going to be okay with. Ever. Forgive? Possibly, if heartfelt and sincere (as if). Forget? Never.

    Feel free to be you, but I am of the take that sometimes burning all bridges is the correct take.

    If someone explicitly goes out of their way to be a prick, mark that, I say.

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  114. Bill says:

    the “virus” was the most political thing I’ve seen in ages- normally idealistic young people I know were cowering at home and shaming anyone who strayed outdoors for anything- even work. After the “lockdown” (which never really happened) I’d see people from their 20’s-70’s out enjoying drinks and such, with no fear/care of the dreaded plague that seemed to have gripped the country, some were in the “group of death” ( diabetics, heart disease, organ transplant recipients, fat,etc.) but they got over it quickly when they saw what a hosejob it was.
    Fast forward 10 months and we’re all out doing the same stuff, and nobody died let alone got sick. Sure, the virus is out there- just like they’ve been since mammals began. But sure, keep hiding from airborne viruses……that works marvelously!

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  115. DrDaveT says:

    @Bill:

    and nobody died let alone got sick.

    I guess if you don’t have 500,000 fingers and toes, some things just ain’t real.

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  116. Andy says:

    @de stijl:

    I consider it my civic duty to not vote for assholes with shit values. YMMV.

    I don’t vote for people with shit values or “obviously bad people” either. That’s the reason why I actually look at candidates and don’t make assumptions about them based on a label. YMMV.

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  117. de stijl says:

    If people willingly opt to vote for shitty policies and propose harsh penalties again and again, they are shitty people.

    Rs demonstrably hate people I love.

    If they want to get better at life, cool, but it is not my duty to coax them into decency.

    You are super open-minded. You deserve a proper pat on the back.

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  118. de stijl says:

    @Bill:

    Thanks for being so self-revealing!

    You have confirmed my thoughts about you and what your deal is.

    537,000 and counting. No big deal. Eff you.

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