Thursday’s Forum

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


  1. Mikey says:

    *opens door, looks around empty room*

    Where is everybody?

  2. MarkedMan says:

    Last night, for the thousandth time, my wife remarked, “I just don’t understand what people see in that guy” (referencing Trump, of course), and I thought, “maybe it’s really simple”. I wonder if a certain percentage of the population, a significant one, are just hardwired to a) look for a leader to follow, and b) choose the one that sounds the most certain. You gotta admit that Trump sounds absolutely certain about literally everything. He’s better at war than the generals, he’s better at weather than the meteorolgists, he’s the greatest businessman who ever lived. When we point out the flaws in all of his bloviation, what are we doing? Expressing doubt. That’s going to cause anxiety in his followers. Anxiety that is only going to be worsened if they start to think about the inconsistencies and lies. It can only be relieved by seeking out certainty, and where is the ultimate expression of certainty found? Trump. When challenged, he doesn’t argue facts or petty details, he spells it right out: “The people who don’t accept my supremacy are the losers, the wimps, the simps.” His fans find that reassuring. All is right with the universe.

  3. Kylopod says:


    You know what I dislike most about these guys? They’re always so certain. They’re always 100 percent sure of what they’re saying. Even if it’s wrong. It must be a great feeling for a guy like Rush Limbaugh. To be able to sit there and say, “There are more Indians alive today than when Columbus landed,” and really believe it.

    –Al Franken, Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations (1996)

  4. MarkedMan says:

    @Kylopod: It would be very easy for me to extrapolate the “craves certainty above all else” type of people attracted to Trump and his ilk are the ones who never have to be in charge, who never have to get things done, who never have to make hard decisions, but I know for a fact that’s not true. I know people who do a good job managing fairly large organizations that are Trump fans. Perhaps in their civilian life they can’t handle the uncertainty and nuance they face in the job.

  5. Kathy says:


    This answers Kenobi’s Conundrum: the more foolish is the fool who follows .

  6. MarkedMan says:

    A factoid on gun ownership:

    With the help of the local medical examiner, Kellermann reviewed every gunshot death that had occurred in King County, where the university was located, from 1978 through 1983. During that period, there had been 398 fatalities in homes that contained a firearm. Fifty had been homicides—and of those, only nine involved self-defense. Twelve shootings had been accidents, and three deaths couldn’t be categorized. The remaining 333 incidents—almost 85 percent of the deaths—were suicides.

    My impression of gun owners is that they see themselves as soon-to-be heroes defending themselves and their families against the Others who seek to destroy them. In reality, not a single one of those shootings were stopping a break in or a car jacking. 333 suicides. 12 accidents. 50 homicides, with only 9 in self defense (and you have to wonder if they would have happened at all if there wasn’t testosterone and guns involved). 3 that were too complicated to categorize.

    Looking at the numbers the reality is that keeping a gun in your home is essentially about making it easier to commit suicide, for yourself, your children or your spouse.

  7. Steve says:

    I think that there are some successful people in leadership positions who believe in Trump since they think he has the same qualities they do. That he is fighting against the people who have held them back or don’t give them their due. 60 years ago if you were the boss you could hire a hot chick as your secretary and hit on her and it was ok. Your wife stayed at home and would never know.

    I think that stuff is how they become acolytes, but at baseline many feel there are too many rules and government is too intrusive. Sometimes they are actually right. People on the left do sometimes go too far and too fast.


  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan: Huh. I know blowhards are lying sacks of shit and it always puts me off.

  9. Franklin says:

    @MarkedMan: Where was I reading this recently? Some psychologists had infiltrated a doomsday cult back in the 60s (iirc). When the leader’s prediction didn’t come true, it was the most fervent believers who doubled down on their faith in him. Others, who had some skepticism and hadn’t sold all their world possessions, were able to break free at that point.

    So I think this follows the pattern of what you suggest about Trump and the anxiety of his followers who see inconsistencies. They just double down. What I don’t know is if there’s any way to reach them.

  10. Tony W says:

    @MarkedMan: Meanwhile we continue having a mass shooting nearly every day to the point it doesn’t even make the national news anymore.

    Unlimited guns in the hands of private citizens are a clear and obvious bad thing for society, and it’s increasingly clear that we need significant regulation and restrictions on their ownership, registration, and use – including the gun owner’s full financial liability for any damage or injury caused by a gun.

  11. MarkedMan says:


    it was the most fervent believers who doubled down on their faith in him

    Yep. The Seventh Day Adventist Church has always been a shining example of this, with absolute and complete proof that the foundations of the faith were completely wrong, to disasterous and life changing effect, but a significant core just kept doubling down, again and again. And they still exist a century and a half later.

    Long ago I realized that fundamentalists of any kind worship Faith more than they worship god. They exalt faith above all else, and laud those who maintain their faith despite all evidence to the contrary. It’s a bizarre position to take, but a common one.

  12. MarkedMan says:

    @Tony W:

    Unlimited guns in the hands of private citizens are a clear and obvious bad thing for society

    I don’t know how you get past the fact that most gun owners live in this fantasy world inside their heads where the guns make them safer, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

  13. Kylopod says:


    Some psychologists had infiltrated a doomsday cult back in the 60s (iirc). When the leader’s prediction didn’t come true, it was the most fervent believers who doubled down on their faith in him. Others, who had some skepticism and hadn’t sold all their world possessions, were able to break free at that point.

    I believe it was from those studies that the term “cognitive dissonance” was first popularized.

  14. gVOR10 says:

    @MarkedMan: 1. Some political scientist remarked that the great secret no political scientist wants to reveal is – the electorate are a box of rocks.
    2. Every American has a right to bitch about the government so grievance is the easiest thing to sell.
    3. The Dow hit a new record high, unemployment is near a record low, inflation has ended, gas is under $3.00.
    4. See 1. above.

  15. SenyorDave says:

    I think Joe Biden owes a huge thank you to Jerome Powell. Yesterday Powell gave an especially dovish outlook, especially coming from a Fed that has harped on higher for longer in terms of rates. He all but told people to empty their piggybanks and spend, whether it is on stocks or goods. The risk is renewed inflation, especially in the housing area. Shelter is one third of CPI, and 40% of core CPI.
    I did see that Goldman Sachs chief economist believes by middle of next year bottom half of households will have less savings than pre-Covid. That means they will finally have burnt through all the Covid stimulus.
    And just a reminder that core CPI is still well above 2% (3.93% is the December estimate from the Cleveland Fed).
    Finally, GDP growth was 5.2% last quarter which was great. Current estimate of Q4 GDP growth from the Atlanta Fed is 1.2%. Q3 was a welcome anomaly, but debt is still increasing much faster than GDP which should not be happening in a strong economy.

  16. Beth says:

    The cruelty is the entire point. Republicans believe that if they make people suffer enough, they will change things about themselves that they can’t.

  17. steve says:

    SenyorDave- Haven’t had time to check Drum’s numbers but he claims that using Fed Reserve numbers total household wealth, which would include savings, home value and everything else is at or above pre-pandemic levels. This includes accounting for inflation.


  18. Slugger says:

    @MarkedMan: I read the article that your comment points to. Deeply saddened, but also informed. Thanks for showing this.
    Read the whole thing, you all.

  19. JohnSF says:

    Good news from Europe: Ukraine to enter EU accession negotiations (also Moldova).
    To any MAGA puzzled as to why Orban folded (again): listen for the rustling sound of Euros in the adjoining room.
    The alt-Right continue to be deluded that Orban and Fidesz are fellow “true believers”; what Orban and his claggy crew really believe in are Euros coming to Hungary, that can be parlayed for votes, and an appreciable proportion trousered.
    Expecting Hungary to go “full breach” with the EU over an issue regarded as of vital importance to the majority of states is about as likely as a MAGA governor in the US walking way from Federal spending.
    Not going to happen.

  20. SenyorDave says:

    @steve: That’s almost certainly true taken in aggregate. But that includes a lot of households where the Covid stimulus was just unnecessary free cash that was never used. The problems, if they do exist, occur when you segment out the population. Almost half the households in the US have almost no savings, and those are the types of households that are below pre-Covid levels.

  21. MarkedMan says:

    @Slugger: When I was in my twenties, just married, new homeowner in the city (during the 80’s, so when crime rates were much higher than now), I contemplated getting a gun for “self defense”. Before I had time to even think much about it, we had a break in. My wife had left her purse on the first floor kitchen table and it was summer and the windows were open with only the screens down. The thief had pulled a plastic garbage can up to the window, stood on the lid (which gives you an idea of their weight and age), cut the screen, and grabbed the purse. I woke up later that morning completely unaware anything had happened. I walked to the bathroom without my glasses on and wearing only the clothes god gave me when I was born, when I heard a police radio from the street talking about a break in at my address. In my groggy state I instantly became convinced that the thief was still in the house and charged naked down the stairs, bursting through room after room until I ended up in the basement. What I thought I was going to do if the thief was there is beyond me. Beat them to death with my willy? But shortly afterward I replayed the whole thing again in my head, but imaging this time I had that gun. Naked man charging wildly through a house with a gun while the police were looking in the window, investigating a break in? Can’t see that ending well. Or what if the noise of the thief woke me up and I grabbed the gun and ended up blowing the brains out of a 70 pound, 13 year old purse thief? How would that have altered my wife and my lives? The problem with gun owners is not that they have too vivid imagination when they conjure up their “I am the hero” fantasies, it’s that they have too little. For every time that a “good guy with a gun” saves the day, there are 500 or a 1000 times that a panicked, depressed, enraged, drunk or drugged fool initiates a tragedy.

  22. Grumpy realist says:

    @MarkedMan: especially if you’re woken up out of a sound sleep. We had the fire alarm go off in my building at some ungodly hour this morning. I estimate it took me fully 20 minutes to a) realize the ringing wasn’t the alarm and that trying to turn the alarm off wouldn’t fix matters, b) realize that it wasn’t one of my smoke detectors and that I couldn’t get rid of it by flipping the circuit breaker c) oh, the smoke detector in the hallway is going off as well, d) get dressed, and e) go outside.

    By which time the fire alarm had stopped. I went down anyway to check things and because Starbucks was open by that point and I could get breakfast. But…yeah.

  23. JohnSF says:

    *Looks enviously from the UK*
    Inflation for October (last full figures): 4.6%
    But at least on the right track, down from 6.7 September.
    Bank of England base interest rate: held at 5.25%, and Bank signalling not much hope of a fall till after August 2024. Three BoE board members wanted rates up to 5.5%!
    Classic over-correction, IMO. GDP fell by 0.3% in October.
    Though possibly also a signal to the government not to be stupid about a pre-election tax cut budget in Spring.

    What seems, at present, to be still under most people’s radar, is the building crisis in local government finances. After years of squeeze on central disbursements, rising costs and social care obligations, and capping of local taxes, several have gone “Section 114″i.e. effectively declaring bankruptcy, recently.
    That could become an avalanche next Spring: estimates that about 1 in 10 are close to financial collapse.

  24. Gustopher says:


    To be able to sit there and say, “There are more Indians alive today than when Columbus landed,” and really believe it.

    To be fair, he said “Indians” not “Native Americans.”

    Rush was technically correct, by accident. And while many people hold “technically correct” to be the highest form of correct, I would posit that “accidentally correct” is better and “technically correct by accident” is best of all.

  25. Gustopher says:

    @MarkedMan: I think it’s that he can say whatever he wants and face no consequences for it. He’s like a mediocre white man’s power fantasy, but real. Hence the insane Rambo-esque portrayals in right wing art.

    Toss in reaffirming their biases, and he’s golden.

    So he got impeached twice… so what? Did it mean anything? And he didn’t lose that election, it was stolen, but he’ll get it back!

  26. Mister Bluster says:
  27. JohnSF says:

    On the subject of Europe and Ukraine, “heavy weapons” cumulative commitments now stand at 47% of the total, US at 43%.
    In the last quarter with solid figures (August, September, October) US new commitments came to EUR 500m, EU states EUR 780m.
    (UK data is rather opaque re. any additional funds, but govt is currently at level that seems to come to c. £500m total ongoing spending per quarter)

  28. JohnSF says:

    And another news item from Europe, perhaps not unconnected with the EU Council events today:
    Yesterday, Donald Tusk became Poland’s new Prime Minister, leading a broad coalition, despite President Duda’s delaying tactics in favour of PiS.
    Lech Walesa spotted in the gallery, cheering and crying. (I do love that old guy.)

  29. CSK says:


    Walesa’s beloved of many on this side of the pond, too.

  30. Beth says:

    The only thing that would make that article better would be to have Greg Davies read it to me. “The pendulum draws the eyes”

  31. Kylopod says:


    To be fair, he said “Indians” not “Native Americans.”

    Rush was technically correct, by accident.

    Clever. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. Limbaugh’s original remark used the term “American Indians.” Franken was slightly misquoting him in the above passage by having him merely say “Indians.” In a sense, you could say Franken inadvertently strengthened Limbaugh’s point. Slightly.

  32. Mister Bluster says:

    Senate Sticks Around To Help Ukraine As House Republicans Skip Town

    Matt Gaetz flies to Moscow to join
    Russian Army.

  33. Kathy says:

    Week 3 of Hell Week has passed insanity and become ridiculous.

    Long story omitted, imagine having to type a listing 20 pages long, with hundreds of lines consisting of five numerical codes, product name, capacity, amount, brand, and price. Usually we copy and paste all but the brand and price, which is after all what one offers. Add a few dozen small changes to capacities. It takes a few hours and it’s very accurate.

    But one can’t cut and paste from a scanned document.

    Oh, anyone who tells me about OCR or converting a scanned PDF to Word format, I swear will live to regret it. Such things don’t work well with tables. It’s less work to just type them (I’ve tried), unless you need the whole table (and even that’s chancy and requires adjustments).