Wednesday’s Forum

FILED UNDER: Open 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

Comments

  1. wr says:

    I’m about halfway through Midnight Mass, and it’s terrific. Not chock full of scares and unpleasantness — maybe that’s why I’m watching that when I still haven’t seen the same guy’s previous Haunting of Hill House and Haunting of Bly Manor.

    But said guy — Mike Flanagan — knows how to write for actors, is a master of scene construction, and is not afraid to go long and deep on dialogue scenes when his characters have something to say, which is often.

    As for the story, it feels like one of Stephen King’s big novels, intensely focused on a small group of people and what happens when a supernatural force is introduced in their lives.

    Oh, and Hamish Linklater finally gets a great starring role.

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  2. charon says:

    https://twitter.com/swin24/status/1442829349477040129

    anti- COVID vaccine rhetoric is killing GOP voters. But for Trump, other prominent Republicans, and Fox and other conservative media, it’s a cash cow:

    https://www.thedailybeast.com/gop-launches-fundraising-frenzy-off-biden-vax-mandates

    When President Joe Biden announced his administration would require vaccines or weekly COVID tests for federal workers and businesses with 100 or more employees, Republicans pounced—as the saying goes—into fundraising mode.

    The day after the announcement, the Republican National Committee began blasting out emails and text messages asking supporters to reach into their pockets to help fund a coming legal challenge against the supposedly “authoritarian” mandate.

    One Fox News insider succinctly described the anti-COVID-mandate segments and vaccine-resistant commentary as “great for ratings.” Another current Fox employee said the numbers clearly demonstrated that there are vanishingly fewer subjects these days that get “our viewers more excited or engaged than” those kinds of segments.

    As for the campaign trail, four different longtime Republican strategists told The Daily Beast that they have encouraged various 2022 GOP candidates who they’re each advising to lean heavily into anti-COVID-mandate messaging, viewing it as perhaps the winning issue with the conservative and Trump base of voters.

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  3. MarkedMan says:

    Steven had a post up a couple of days ago about partisanship, but it was a busy day and I didn’t chime in at the time. I’ve been thinking about it since, though, and realized part of the disagreement is caused by differing views on the amount of agency the voters have in a party. Steven feels they have very little agency. Leaders are elected, behave in certain ways, send certain messages, and the voters simply respond. (OK, I admit I’ve exaggerated his view for illustrative purposes.) But I think he does not give sufficient agency to the Republican primary voters. I contend that they will not accept candidates that don’t tell them what they want to hear. My proof is that there has been a purge of candidates willing to speak the truth. A newbie dealing in realism has no chance whatsoever and even long serving incumbents who won’t tell them what they want to hear have been driven from office. These aren’t isolated cases. There is literally almost no-one left in the party willing to tell the truth to their voters. Ultimately, the problem is the feedback loop: the base won’t accept people who don’t give them the message they want to hear, which drives rational people (candidates and voters) from the party and attracts loons, which in turn heightens the demand for the candidates to perform in the circus. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    I’m not saying that the Republican elected officials aren’t despicable opportunists. But you lso have to lay a good part of the blame at the base voters who will only accept despicable opportunists as candidates. Yes, those candidates, once elected, are morally bankrupt. But that was inevitable.

    People are constantly commenting on how the party, voters and politicians alike, are in the thrall of Trump. But even Trump was booed when he said something good about vaccines. The voters have agency and with that comes responsibility. The Republican base is ultimately responsible for the mess their leaders have created.

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  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan: I can find nothing in what you’ve said here to disagree with. Not even a quibble.

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  5. Jax says:

    Oh my…..American Greatness has a headline up saying Kristi Noem is why Republicans can’t have nice things and claiming she’s having an affair with Corey Lewandowski. I refuse to link to their site and give them more clicks, but just so you all know, I almost spit coffee on my computer when I read the headline. 😛

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  6. Jen says:

    @Jax: Ms. Noem does seem to be in a bit of a spot right now. Abuse of power isn’t becoming.

    South Dakota attorney general ‘actively reviewing’ Gov. Kristi Noem’s controversial family meeting

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  7. @MarkedMan:

    does not give sufficient agency to the Republican primary voters

    Keep in mind that I have noted the differences between primary voters and general election voters all the time. Further, the recent discussion was in the context of current leaders already having been elected.

    But, of course, this is also why I focus some much on candidate selection processes and the institutional environment.

    The primary rules helped Trump be nominated. And, as I recall, he never even got 50% of the primary vote. But, he ended up the candidate, and then won because of the EC and now we are where are.

    I am not so much saying that voters don’t have agency (they do), but there is no denying that once a leader is in place that that leader has a substantial influence on the mass. So how the leader gets there matters a great deal.

    And all of this is made worse when voters think they only have two viable options in the general (it creates a lot of pressure for motivated thinking).

    (Obviously this a thumbnail of a broader set of issues).

    One key point: I am not saying people don’t have agency. I am saying that a combination of factors, such as self-identity (which team am I on?), lack of choice, and then leadership signals all combine to influence mass thinking because these factors reinforce the human tendency to rationalize and engage in motivated thinking to justify oneself.

    People simply do not weigh each policy or political decision on its own merits.

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  8. @Steven L. Taylor: I know this is a counterfactual, but consider the following:

    1. A universe in which the GOP centrally selects its 2016 candidate. In that scenario, Trump is not selected. (Or even one in which Trump never runs under the current rules).
    2. HRC still closed the EV.
    3. President Any Other Republican behaves like past presidents and treats Covid like a public health crisis, and promotes masking.
    4. Vaccines do not become a startly partisan dividing line.
    5. A lot of currently dead people are alive.

    I know that counterfactuals are limited, but I think this illustrates my point.

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  9. @MarkedMan:

    are in the thrall of Trump.

    For me, this is not about being “in the thrall of Trump.”

    This is about what happens when there are only two teams, most people not being willing to switch teams, the leader of your team behaves badly, and therefore a lot of people rationalize why their team’s leader is right because saying otherwise means joining the other team.

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  10. CSK says:

    @Jax:
    If true, this news just confirms that Noem has very bad taste in men. Lewandowsky???? Eeeuuu.

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  11. @Steven L. Taylor: FYI: I added a rather important “not” to that comment.

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  12. charon says:

    I think regardless of Trump the red team would still be anti-vax.

    Fundie preachers, Facebook, Conservative media all pumping out anti-science BS, anti-vax for these people is overdetermined.

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  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    First comes the voter and the character of that voter. There’s no smaller political unit than that, so that, IMO, is where we should start. It’s that voter’s greed or need or weakness that is exploited by a parasitic politician. Politicians cannot cause a voter to be cruel, stupid or racist any more than they can cause a voter to be a Democrat. (See what I did there?)

    If Trump had followed a normal, competent path he would not be the cult leader he is. He would not be able to get his followers to kill themselves or their family members, something they are doing right now. There was a pre-existing condition which Trump exploited, rather like Covid with an immunocompromised person. There was a pre-existing desire for a cruel, masculine creature to embody all their rage and fear. There was hatred of the ‘other’ which Trump exploited. There was intellectual insecurity, which Trump exploited.

    IOW, Trump did not walk into a room full of vegans and sell them steaks, he walked into a room full of rage-fueled (mostly) men and acted out all their worst instincts. Without the pre-existing fear, insecurity, cruelty and superstition of Voter X in State Y, Trump would still be trying to sell ties. The voter is to blame.

    The fault as always lies not in our (reality TV) stars, but in ourselves.

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  14. @Michael Reynolds:

    First comes the voter and the character of that voter. There’s no smaller political unit than that, so that, IMO, is where we should start.

    That works if, and only if, each voter in fact makes a wholly independent choice and forms opinions solely as an autonomous unit. We know that they don’t.

    Your first premise is flawed.

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  15. @Michael Reynolds:

    The voter is to blame.

    This is simply too reductive. Voters exist in systems and contexts that structure what choices they have and how they make them. And there are constraints on rationality.

    There is a reason that, to pick my main area of interest, that electoral rules matter. They change what choices you can make.

    If the buffet only has pork and steak to choose from, it is not the diner’s fault that they don’t eat fish. And to pretend like the reason they don’t eat fish is that they have chosen not to do so ignores context and structure, even if we allow that diners have agency.

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  16. @Michael Reynolds:

    Without the pre-existing

    Yes, there is a pre-existing context. That does not change my point in the least.

    (BTW, amusingly I got caught up in answering you post piece by piece and didn’t realize you had gone to food as well!).

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  17. @charon:

    I think regardless of Trump the red team would still be anti-vax.

    Fundie preachers, Facebook, Conservative media all pumping out anti-science BS, anti-vax for these people is overdetermined.

    There was not a mass, Red-state-based rejection of the host of vaccines everyone had to take to go to school. We were not ideologically divided on vaccines prior to this current moment.

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  18. Kathy says:

    There’s still no bottom.

    Benito the Cheeto wants to assert executive privilege in the matter of the Jan 6 Committee.

    Because, you know, the next time a president, or Benito, wants to plot treason and the overthrow of the elected president, they must be sure their co-conspirators will conspire with confidence their malfeasance won’t be revealed to the public.

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  19. senyordave says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: The voter is to blame.

    This is simply too reductive. Voters exist in systems and contexts that structure what choices they have and how they make them. And there are constraints on rationality.

    Ordinarily I would probably agree that the voter is to blame is too simplistic. But Trump is truly a special case. He is so obviously deficient in every facet of what makes up a decent person that most sentient beings should eliminate him as a person they would choose as the MOST POWERFUL PERSON in the world immediately.
    There were 10+ Republicans to choose from in 2016. You wanted a businessperson, you had Fiorina, who had a pretty impressive resume. You wanted experienced pols, you had Bush and Kasich. You wanted younger pols, you had Rubio, Cruz. You wanted a bully who actually was smart, you had Christie. You wanted supposed Christians, you had Huckabee and Santorum. But the people chose a moral degenerate who was clearly the least knowledgeable of all the candidates, Most of them weren’t fooled, they voted for Trump and knew he was a racist, amoral pig. And that is a large part of the attraction for most of his supporters.

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  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    When a murder is committed, who goes to prison? Society? No, the guy who pulled the trigger goes to prison. We don’t imprison his media, we don’t imprison his daddy, we don’t imprison his DNA. We imprison the shooter.

    There is no escaping individual responsibility. Even if we acknowledge all the nuances, there is simply no way to organize a civilization (as far as we’ve yet discovered) without holding individuals responsible for their actions.

    If the killer is responsible for his own actions, how is the voter not responsible for his?

    You’re an academic and deal in systems. I’m a fiction writer and deal in character. Character may be shaped by systems, just as any gangbanger or SS officer might be shaped by a system, but we still throw the gangster in prison and hang the Nazi.

    To fail to do this is to invite complete societal breakdown, because if we’re blaming systems, well everyone who does anything has license to do whatever they like. Agency is held by individuals, whether those individuals are random schmoes working at an Amazon warehouse, or Jeff Bezos creating the system that is Amazon. There’s no escape from individual agency, there’s no escape from individual choices and responsibilities.

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  21. @Michael Reynolds:

    When a murder is committed

    Murder is not a collective action. Voting is.

    Context and structure matter for mass action, as does culture and a host of other things.

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  22. @senyordave:

    But Trump is truly a special case. He is so obviously deficient in every facet of what makes up a decent person that most sentient beings should eliminate him as a person they would choose as the MOST POWERFUL PERSON in the world immediately.

    Look, I hate to tell all the Democrats out there, but if there was a truly horrible Dem on the ballot who most Dems thought would put the right judges on SCOTUS, increase taxes on the rich, and otherwise allows Dem congress to do Dem things, most Dems would vote for the terrible Dem on the ballot for POTUS.

    Because the alternative would be electing a Republican.

    Would some Dems eschew the terrible Dem? Sure, but most simply would rationalize voting for the terrible Dem.

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  23. I also hate to tell everyone, but if one is a pro-life Republican who likes tax cuts and reduced regulations, voting for Trump was a wholly rational choice.

    (And it is not hard to rationalize away 1/6 as a bunch of kooks and to decide that vaccines and masks are just a “personal choice”).

    This is not a moral defense of a Trump vote, but it is a wholly logical explanation that comports with how we know voters and human beings behave.

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  24. @senyordave:

    There were 10+ Republicans to choose from in 2016.

    Yes, and if the Reps had different rules for how delegates were allocated, you might have had a result more like the Dems in 2020. The system is designed to give a plurality winner the lion’s share of the delegates.

    And yes, it would have been nice if the other Reps had better coordinated.

    Again, I am not excusing or defending but explaining. The rules matter.

    And yes, I blame GOP primary voters, especially in the early stages of the process, but being foolish enough to vote for Trump.

    But I have not been discussing primary voters in 2016 of late, I have been discussing the role of partisanship in 2020/2021 over the pandemic. At that point, the actions of 2016 are baked in. In other words, even Jan 16 v. Nov 16 are different discussions in terms of voter behavior.

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  25. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: You make an excellent argument. But what you describe as the cult around Trump is a new thing. Reagan was IIRC the most popular past president, but I don’t think you’d call his following a cult. So you have to ask what changed. Voters are a bunch of ignorant, prejudiced, emotional children. But they always have been, I think Kevin Drum has a big piece of the puzzle when he argues it’s largely the influence of FOX News.

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  26. @Michael Reynolds:

    You’re an academic and deal in systems. I’m a fiction writer and deal in character.

    Yes, I systematically study social and political phenomenon as embedded in a vast established discipline that has to deal with empirical and objective reality.

    You can make up whatever you like.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but these are radically different. Plus, your paradigm allows you to be supremely confident about your characters and their motivations and behaviors because you are essentially God in that context. I do NOT control my object of study in the same way.

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  27. @Michael Reynolds:

    Character may be shaped by systems, just as any gangbanger or SS officer might be shaped by a system, but we still throw the gangster in prison and hang the Nazi.

    But, if we are seeking to understand why someone joined a gang or became a Nazi, we don’t pretend like context, familial background, or social conditions aren’t part of the explanation, now do we?

    I never said you aren’t responsible for how you, as an individual, votes. I am talking about understanding aggregate behavior. You are being too reducutive and simplistic.

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  28. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    but there is no denying that once a leader is in place that that leader has a substantial influence on the mass

    Two things. I don’t think this is as clear cut as you think. Even Trump can’t get his supporters to get vaccinated. It is obvious his calculus is that if he pushes too hard he will lose those supporters.

    And yes, if the Republican leaders had been chosen in some other way, they might have been different or at least acted differently. But they were chosen by the most committed party members, with the strongest opinions on how those leaders should act. And this is the result. It’s a symbiotic relationship, or, given the amount of fleecing of the flock going on by these politicians who are giving their supporters nothing but words they want to hear in return, perhaps it is better described as a parasitic one.

    You state that the party leadership can influence their voters more substantially than I think they can. As proof of my position I point to all those that tried and either gave up or lost their primary. What evidence do you have to the contrary? Not in general, but for the Republican Party as it exists now.

    FWIW, if I was trying to make your argument, I would start with Larry Hogan. If there is evidence that more Republicans got vaccinated in MD than in a comparable state (if there is one) that be something concrete. But I don’t even know how you could make that argument in a red state. There, the Republican governors who have begged and pleaded for their residents to get vaccinated still have the worst vaccination rates in the country.

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  29. charon says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Found this at BJ:

    https://www.balloon-juice.com/2021/09/28/excellent-read-a-vaccine-mandate-fractures-a-state-fair/

    “We’ve had people cuss at us. Tell us to go F-ourselves. That it’s against their rights for us to be doing this,” said screener Sterling Utter, who in previous years had run the fair’s midway. “But I have six kids, all prematurely born, with weak immune systems. I’m for it. I want the safety.”

    Inside the fair, a smaller-than-normal crowd rode the carousel, toured art exhibits and listened to live music amid the smoky-sweet aroma of sizzling meat and cotton candy. Several fairgoers said they were comforted knowing others there were vaccinated…

    Baca said vaccine resistance was puzzling from a community that raises livestock. “I don’t get it,” said Baca, 36, a mechanic. “Don’t the farmers vaccinate their animals?”

    They do, Michael Bennett said the next day, Sept. 16, at the fairgrounds in Roswell, where the New Mexico Youth Livestock Expo had sprung up to take the place of the state fair show. Bennett, a rancher, was there with his 16-year-old daughter, Callie, who was showing a 1,335-pound steer named Jimmy in hopes of winning a belt buckle, a banner and a chance to sell the bovine.

    Bennett said he spends as much as $30,000 a year on vaccines for his cattle, giving him special insight into the value of immunization. He said he and his whole family have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, a disease he said he knew was dangerous.

    But the fair’s rules on vaccination did not sit well with him. The mandate — coming just weeks before the fair and one of its highlights, the youth livestock circuit — was crushing for unvaccinated kids who spent hours a day for as long as a year raising their animals, he said. Like some others at the expo, Bennett said his family did not want to attend if everyone could not go…

    Later, as the beef cattle competition came to an end in the dusty show ring, “The Final Countdown” by Europe played over loudspeakers. The judge, an agriculture professor brought in from Illinois, paused before announcing the winner.

    “I don’t know what unfolded in the last few weeks, but I know this wasn’t the original plan,” he said. “You guys are fortunate that there was a group of people that said, ‘No way, we’re not going to throw in the towel. These kids are going to show.’ ”…

    In Albuquerque, Mourning did not disagree. He said he felt sorry that kids were caught up in something that has become so political. The fair canceled its livestock show, he said, so they would not be forced to choose between events.

    “The young men and women that have worked so hard for that deserve to have their show. They’re pawns in this,” he said, adding: “The state fair is for all New Mexicans. And we hope next year all New Mexicans can come back and enjoy the show.”

    My emphasis. Here is a fellow who lives in a thinly populated rural county and has neighbors he does not want to piss off. So, go along and get along.

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  30. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:
    It may be less Fox News (which the Trumpkins claim to hate, and have for a few years) than the really crazy websites such as Breitbart, The Gateway Pundit, The Conservative Tree House, and a host of others out there.

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  31. @Michael Reynolds:

    because if we’re blaming systems

    I am not sure how I am “blaming systems”–but I will point out that if candidate selection process A can get you Trump, but candidate selection process B almost certainly will not, then maybe that its worth a look.

    Or if electoral system A amplifies the chances that a major party will be taken over by its more fringe actors, but electoral system B protects against such, then maybe that is worth understanding.

    Especially when the same voters produce different outcomes when structural conditions change–it is as if it isn’t just about individual voters.

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  32. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Steven, if you think that being the leader means that your “team” will do what you say, you really should talk to the Pope. You know, the one who says no birth control, no abortion, no sex outside of marriage, etc. I’m not saying that leaders have no influence, but that it is limited, and is especially limited in today’s Republican Party. As to your counterfactual, you are making my point. In some other Republican Party, their could have been such a leadership. But in the actual Republican Party it wasn’t even close.

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  33. charon says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    There was not a mass, Red-state-based rejection of the host of vaccines everyone had to take to go to school. We were not ideologically divided on vaccines prior to this current moment.

    The context is different. Polio, Tetanus, Measles etc. have not been politicized the way the “China Virus” has.

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  34. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Just to be clear, in my replies I am not assigning blame. I’m simply describing the real world current state of this very specific Republican Party. It may be almost unique in history for the amount of control its primary voters have over the actions of their chosen leaders.

    Now, if you were arguing that Fox News could make a difference, I would agree.

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  35. Michael Cain says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I do control my object of study in the same way.

    I think there’s a missing “not” in that sentence.

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  36. @MarkedMan:

    In some other Republican Party, their could have been such a leadership. But in the actual Republican Party it wasn’t even close.

    That still raises questions of timelines and causality (and process).

    My point isn’t complicated, and honestly shouldn’t be controversial: many (not all, to your Poper obseravtion, I would note) Republican-identifying citizens have taken cues from Trump (and other leaders, most taking their cues from Trump) which shows up in behaviors.

    And that had there been a different Republican president in 2020 the cues would have been different, almost certainly, and the results therefore different.

    But I probably give up for the moment because while I actually think I could eventually explain myself better and convince some (not all) to change their mind, this format just starts to suck time and drive me a bit nuts.

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  37. @Michael Cain: Thanks. I have a weird habit of dropping “nots.”

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  38. @charon:

    The context is different. Polio, Tetanus, Measles etc. have not been politicized the way the “China Virus” has.

    Sigh. That’s the point.

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  39. @charon:

    Here is a fellow who lives in a thinly populated rural county and has neighbors he does not want to piss off. So, go along and get along.

    So other people influence the behavior or others? Group dynamics matter?

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  40. @MarkedMan:

    Two things. I don’t think this is as clear cut as you think. Even Trump can’t get his supporters to get vaccinated. It is obvious his calculus is that if he pushes too hard he will lose those supporters.

    Likewise, a lot of Trump voters wore masks and got vaccinated right away.

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  41. I always end up feeling like people don’t fully understand what is meant by explaining aggregate behavior.

    Or why some specific example is not the point when talking about things like the charts and graphs in the post about partisanship from the other day.

    I will assume that I am not explaining it well enough, but I really think there are some disconnects here in some of the comments as it pertains to social science.

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  42. @MarkedMan:

    Steven, if you think that being the leader means that your “team” will do what you say, you really should talk to the Pope.

    I know I said I was going to shut up, but let me say: I have never said that leadership of your team means that there is a 1:1 correlation with leadership signals and mass behavior.

    To the point of my last comment above, I am saying that aggregate behavior is linked to elite cues. If the Pope came out tomorrow and said X, a lot of devote Catholics would try to do X, but some wouldn’t. That some wouldn’t doesn’t obviate the reality that a lot of them did.

    I could go on, but I will truly stop now.

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  43. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Sure. I’m not arguing that most Republican voters are actively demanding the nonsense. Just the primary voters. And while Democratic candidates are also chosen by their. base voters (like Republican base voters in the past), they are a substantially more diverse group with a lot of different perspectives and desires. They are extremely unlikely to nominate enough loony Democrats across the entire country to essentially take over the party. But today’s Republican base voters, unlike those from, say 40 years ago, are not nearly so diverse. And they are looking for candidates to feed the loony.

    Im sure you are right that changes in the nominating rules might have prevented Trump. But I suspect it would have just delayed such a candidate. The Republican Party has been in a destructive feedback loop since Goldwater and the Southern Strategy. In my lifetime it has only gotten worse, and my first election was 1980. The nominating rules have been changed multiple times in those decades, but all the changes have been in the direction towards a Trump-like character.

    Put another way, what possible mechanism would there be in today’s Republican Party, to change the nominating rules substantially? And even given such a mechanism, who has the will and power to implement it?

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  44. MarkedMan says:

    @gVOR08: Hadn’t read your comment on Fox when I made mine. Great minds think alike*

    *And, as my mother would say, Fools seldom differ…

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  45. Monala says:

    @wr: I’m looking forward to watching it. I watched both Haunting series and enjoyed them immensely. Some genuine scares and creepy atmosphere, along with great characters and moving themes (loneliness, grief, etc.).

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  46. MarkedMan says:

    @MarkedMan: As in most such arguments, I suspect the reason you are growing frustrated is that we are arguing about two completely different things. Here’s where I agree with your argument, as best as I can understand it: If different nominating processes were in place then different Republican candidates would have been nominated and elected and their influence on their party-members and, in return, those members influence on them would have created a different set of policies and outcomes. So I think that’s the bulk of what you are saying and I agree with all of it.

    What I am talking about is my belief that, due to nearly six decades of prior behaviors and reinforcements, the Republican Party is in a death spiral. The intra-party forces keeping out the reforms you propose are too strong, and those who control the party benefit too greatly from the status quo. Whatever the theory is, the reality is that the party is only going deeper down the rabbit hole.

    So as near as I can see we are not arguing with each others positions, but rather arguing about what is the more interesting thing to talk about.

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  47. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I always end up feeling like people don’t fully understand what is meant by explaining aggregate behavior.

    Harry Seldon felt the same way.

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  48. flat earth luddite says:

    And now for a slight change of pace, I give you breaking news courtesy of the National Law Journal…

    Suggesting Abortion Law is ‘Stimulating’ Interstate Travel, Texas Tells Judge to Reject DOJ Challenge

    “That a law prevents some abortions from occurring, even pre-viability, does not make it a ‘ban,’” the Texas brief reads

    Where’s the face palm emoji when I need it? Effing A!

    (Someone else will have to post the link… I haven’t the stomach for it)

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  49. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I never said you aren’t responsible for how you, as an individual, votes. I am talking about understanding aggregate behavior.

    Amusing coincidence that we’ve been discussing the Foundation series recently. And as I seem to recall Michael Reynolds was explicit in that thread as considering the whole plot around psychohistory as utter nonsense. If you think everything comes down to an individual the whole idea behind social sciences in general or any other study of aggregate behavior beyond the individual (let alone an extrapolation of existing social sciences to the mathematical precision of psychohistory) is incomprehensible.

    How did Agent K put it? “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.”

    Another random connection in my brain is connecting this to the idea of stochastic terrorism (which I think has been discussed here before). The idea that propagandists, via a constant stream of invective, hate, and targeting, can trigger a terrorist event even if they were not personally involved in the planning or execution. I originally read about in the context of al-Qaeda offshoots and people like Bin Laden, but it seems increasingly obvious to be prevalent in right wing politics today. We don’t know the individual who will snap, and it’s tricky to figure out in the context of the 1st Amendment how to stop Trump, or Tucker, or the rest from spewing their BS out into the wild…but it certainly triggered 1/6 (and will continue to trigger people in the future). And it doesn’t seem right to hold only the people who invaded the Capitol responsible.

    That’s where I struggle to follow Reynolds. If outside agency and group mentalities can’t be used to judge individual behavior because ultimately each individual is uniquely responsible for their own behavior, then there is no such thing as “incitement” and no way to hold someone like Trump accountable for what he did that day and for months beforehand (and still is). After all, speech is protected and he didn’t attack the Capitol and its officers.

    I wish psychohistory was real 🙂 It would be nice to put a number on the likelihood that today’s Fox propagandists are increasing the likelihood of a terrorist event in the future, and by how much. If we could do such a thing, it might be possible to start holding them accountable in a logical and non-partisan way to stop them from poisoning the environment in the first place.

    But then I start thinking of Minority Report and pre-crime and…hell with it. To go back to one of our greatest authors: To sum up the summary of the summary, people are a problem.

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  50. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Look, I hate to tell all the Democrats out there, but if there was a truly horrible Dem on the ballot who most Dems thought would put the right judges on SCOTUS, increase taxes on the rich, and otherwise allows Dem congress to do Dem things, most Dems would vote for the terrible Dem on the ballot for POTUS.

    Hmmm… That first bolded part is in direct contradiction with the 2nd bolded part. I mean, we DEMs only want to do good things for everybody. 😉 😉 😉 😉

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  51. MarkedMan says:

    @MarkedMan: Whoops, that was a reply to Steven, not myself @Steven L. Taylor:

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  52. charon says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I thought it was about how much control Trump has over his MAGA’s. I say not as much as is commonly asserted.

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  53. Kathy says:

    It’s said a leader cannot lead people where they don’t want to go. This is debatable. But it’s far easier to lead people where they do want to go.

    However, just because they want to go somewhere, doesn’t mean they know how to get there. a leader does provide the way. and the way of El Cheeto Benito is far different from what a less incompetent, less incoherent, less impulsive, and less stupid Republican would have chosen.

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  54. just nutha says:

    Moving away from questions of cultish behavior, differences between highly motivated and less motivated voters, and FG as a stand in for David Koresh or Jim Jones or fundy preachers channeling Hitler, a euigook friend of mine living in Korea asked me why the “big money donors who run the GQP” don’t tell the Congressional Caucus to knock off the debt ceiling brinksmanship.

    My two pretty unsatisfying answers were that it’s possible that the goons in the primary-ing mob held more sway on this question or that it’s possible that the biggest money players in politics are so rich and diversified that they simply DGAF about what happens to the American economy; they can ride it out (much the same as in 2008). As I note, these answers are unsatisfying, so I’m throwing the question to all of the budding libertarian/progressive/MMT economic thinkers and experts on all things behaviorally cultish to weigh in. Whaddya think?

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  55. just nutha says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican: Years ago a school administrator told me that the “zero tolerance” policy wasn’t about zero tolerance but rather a social construct (not his words, neither that intelligent nor erudite) that “permits us to go after the kids we don’t approve of.”

    In much the same way, incitement may or may not be a thing. I really don’t know. Either way, it is a social construct that can provide the vehicle via which “we” (whichever we we might be) can go after the people we don’t approve of. As to how to use it as such? I don’t know. Using it always depends on the relative power of “we” and “their” (the people “we” don’t approve of) friends in the political cause and effect calculus. In this case, my guess would be that “we” lack power because of the identies of some of “them” and their individual weight in the power structure. (For example, FG will never be charged with sedition. It’s a political act that would release a genie that no one wants out of the bottle.)

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  56. just nutha says:

    @flat earth luddite: “(Someone else will have to post the link… I haven’t the stomach for it)”

    And it seems that that person will not be me as I don’t have access to the article nor has it been sent to me. Which I am just fine with. Just reading the original post is already TMI to suit me.

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  57. charon says:

    @Kathy:

    But it’s far easier to lead people where they do want to go.

    Trump uses his rallies to test applause lines. “Build the Wall” tested well, so it became policy.

    Trump’s MAGA’s have more control over Trump, and his policies, than he has of them.

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  58. Jen says:

    So, apparently a few anti-vax loons showed up at a meeting today in NH, preventing a newly elected Democratic state rep from getting sworn in.

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  59. flat earth luddite says:

    @just nutha:
    Well, it won’t be me. I’m too poor to pay 29.99/month for unlimited access to the National Law Journal. And even if I could afford it, like you, I don’t really want to see any more.

    Or as the song went, “Momma told me not to come…”

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  60. CSK says:

    We were speaking earlier of the repulsive Corey Lewandowski.Politico has a piece about him making unwanted aggressive sexual advances toward the wife of a major Trump donor.

    Side note: The unfortunate woman is named Trashelle. Trashelle Odom. (Were I named Trashelle, I’d change my name as soon as legally possible to Ann or Jane.) What would be the nickname here? Trashy?

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  61. CSK says:

    @Jen:
    What in hell was the bearded loon yelling about?

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  62. Jen says:

    @CSK: The Executive Council was meeting to hear the details on DHHS contracts to help promote vaccination. The bearded loon doesn’t want NH to accept any federal funding, or promote vaccination against covid.

    Here’s a WMUR story about the meeting.

    I have no patience with these idiots and would really like to know why these loons aren’t in jail right now.

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  63. just nutha says:

    @CSK: He was probably objecting to his flock being defamed by being compared to Republicans when birds don’t even have the right to vote. (And yes, this will be the last time, but I just couldn’t resist. 😉 )

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  64. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK: This is abhorrent behavior, and at the risk of victim shaming I gotta note that it once again promotes the stereotype of Republicans as people who can only marshal empathy when something happens to them or their family directly. Here is a major Trump donor – no, more than that, someone actively promoting Trump and his agenda. The paw-ings and rape of Trump and the paw-ings of Lewandowsky didn’t put her off in the least – until it happened to her.

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  65. Jen says:

    @CSK: Holy cow. Lewandowski has always struck me as a disgusting creep, but her account is next-level. That amount of aggression is scary, he was stalking her at an event. I hope they sue–pardon the pun–the pants off of him.

    Link: https://www.politico.com/news/2021/09/29/corey-lewandowski-sexual-advances-allegations-514650

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  66. just nutha says:

    @CSK: She probably goes by “Shel” or “Shelly,” but yeah, I wouldn’t want to be named Trashelle short of being the favorite niece of my rich Great Aunt Trashelle (and even then, she’d need to have wealth approaching National Debt level with me as her sole heir).

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  67. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:
    Joy Villa also accused Lewandowsky of mauling her. And of course he grabbed and shoved Michelle Fields, the ex-Breitbart reporter.

    What this means, of course, is that ole Corey’s probably molested many a woman who’s been too intimidated to report it.

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  68. CSK says:

    @just nutha:
    You have to wonder just what the hell her parents were thinking. Trashelle???

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  69. just nutha says:

    @CSK: No, I assume that her parents weren’t. (Thinking, that is.)

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  70. CSK says:

    @just nutha:
    I used the word loosely. Very loosely.

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  71. senyordave says:

    @CSK: Sounds like Lewandowski has learned very well from Trump. I’m guessing that Ms. Odom has no problem with Trump’s behavior (or maybe she doesn’t believe other women’s stories about being molested).
    It really is difficult to feel any sympathy for any women who supports Trump.

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  72. CSK says:

    @senyordave:
    Trump supposedly fired Lewandowsky i Jan. 2016 after Ivanka delivered to her father a he-goes-or-I-go ultimatum. I guess Corey didn’t take the hint.

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  73. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I always end up feeling like people don’t fully understand what is meant by explaining aggregate behavior.

    I suspect that it’s in part because you’re using the word “explain” in a technical jargon sense, rather than in the ordinary language sense.

    In statistics, you can say that variables X1 and X2 explain 87% of the observed variation in Y, and not be making any kind of causal assertion at all. In ordinary English, you can’t — explanations are necessarily causal. Econometricians and statisticians who work in the field of causal inference have had to concoct a whole new terminology to distinguish between these two notions of “explanation”.

    I interpret your comments about explaining aggregate behavior as using the word “explaining” in the statistical sense, not the causal sense. Am I right? If so, I assure you that this is not what many people hear when you say that.

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  74. DrDaveT says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    There is no escaping individual responsibility. Even if we acknowledge all the nuances, there is simply no way to organize a civilization (as far as we’ve yet discovered) without holding individuals responsible for their actions.

    I’m curious who you think is the villain in “Othello”.

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  75. Jen says:

    Interesting subpoena list from the Jan. 6 Committee: https://twitter.com/Acosta/status/1443341507608694785

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  76. Jax says:

    This is so messed up. Let me guess, a bunch of hillbillies are gonna sue the doctors and nurses, now, for failing to treat with ivermectin and HCQ?

    https://www.ksl.com/article/50251830/looming-liability-doctors-nurses-on-the-pandemic-frontlines-are-likely-legal-targets

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  77. @DrDaveT: I think the problem is individual v. aggregate.

    And the fact that a lot of folks simply want to indict their political rivals en masse.

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  78. Kathy says:

    @Jax:

    I wonder about the rationale. It’s certainly not malpractice.

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  79. @DrDaveT:

    If so, I assure you that this is not what many people hear when you say that.

    I will give this some thought. On the one hand, I do try to write to a general audience. But on the other, I find it a bit unlikely that the people with whom I regularly engage on this topic would not have a general understanding that I do not think that political outcomes are monocausal (i.e., that X fully explains Y, as you are suggesting common usage of the word “explain” would mean to a general audience).

    Also, it is hardly news to most of these folks as to my background or approach.

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  80. Jax says:

    @Kathy: I’ve been reading a lot of the Herman Cain Awards on Reddit. I fully expect to see the families of some of the winners sue because their loved ones weren’t treated in accordance with the ivermectin protocol.

    Speaking of which, I better go check and see if the guy who was being treated in a COVID ward “against his will” ever made it out! He’s the one and only person legal to practice law in all 50 states, doncha know. Despite not passing the bar…..anywhere. 😛 😛

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  81. Kathy says:

    @Jax:

    I still don’t see it, unless the patients have worms as well as COVID.

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  82. Jax says:

    @Kathy: I’m seriously missing out on a cash bonanza, we buy that shit by the gallon for our cattle to get rid of lice.

    I hear our local nurses are getting the human form for their families. In particular….the head nurse at our nursing home, and also our school district’s head nurse. Who happen to be related.

    I’ve had just about enough of these motherfuckers.

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