Wednesday’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. Kylopod says:

    Carrying over a discussion from yesterday’s Open Forum:


    As I recall, there was a rather revealing slip by a lot of analysts after 2016. It was common to say TFG won the working class vote. They had to be corrected – No, he won the white working class vote. He lost the working class vote billy.

    While I absolutely agree and have noticed that many people use “working class” as a shorthand for “white working class,” the claim that Trump won the working-class vote is based on defining the term as voters without a four-year college degree, and it is true–Trump did win that demographic both times (albeit very narrowly in 2020). And then the analytical pieces talk about Trump’s domination of the vote of whites without college degrees, which he indeed won by massive margins both times.

    The problem is that this category doesn’t map perfectly onto the everyday meaning of working class as someone who holds a particular type of job. Many people with four-year college degrees hold working-class jobs (at least initially), and many people without them don’t (Bill Gates would be defined as working class by this standard, at least until the honorary degrees he was given several years into being the wealthiest man on the planet). So why do pollsters use this category as the benchmark for what other people call working class? Probably simply because it’s easier to identify. It’s possible to imagine a long-ranging study where they identified working-class voters under specific criteria on what types of jobs they held, but it would be complicated as hell to set up such a study. For a run-of-the-mill exit poll, they’re pretty much stuck either asking the voter directly “Are you working class?” or asking them if they have a four-year degree. Most pollsters choose the latter, and this has gone on to become the overwhelming convention of a technical definition of working-class voter for analysis purposes.

  2. Dude Kembro says:

    @Kylopod: Interesting idea, especially since these demo descriptors are so amorphous. To me, it seems simpler to define class how it’s always been defined, some combo income, wealth, and work.

    This seems like an overly-complex rationalization of media erasure of the Democratic working class. Those working class votes have lately been increasingly non-white, urban, and younger, and disproportionately women and LGBT. This cohort is growing and browning America, but they do not fit the establishment’s romanticized ‘working class’ ideal (hence McConnell’s recent Freudian slip, “African-American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.”)

    In response, yes we could redefine working-class. Or we can just admit that Trump did not, and Republicans do not, win the majority of working class voters with more precise language. If we mean “voters without a college degree” or “white working class,” that’s what we should say I think.

    Because what class is a 34 year-old, Hillary-and-Biden-loving lesbian waitress who takes home $49,000 a year but who got a bachelor’s from Iowa State, because that’s what millennials were to told to do, only to see her lifetime earning potential hollowed out by two massive economic upheavals? Middle class? Upper class?

    She’s working class. We shouldn’t change that reality to fit the narrative; the narrative should change to more accurately reflect the reality. But to do that would require the establishment to greet her insecurities, her insecurities, her “wokeness” with empathetic respect. The same empathy we give to the anxieties of the customer she’s serving at the diner, a trucker in a MAGA hat. And that we establishmentarians do not want to do.

  3. Kylopod says:

    @Dude Kembro:

    If we mean “voters without a college degree” or “white working class,” that’s what we should say I think.

    And that’s often what media pieces do say. The phrase “whites without college degrees” has been commonplace in articles on Trump’s rise for years. And certainly the education gap is one of the most important determiners of voting today, and therefore deserves attention in its own right. The problem is that every now and then, you catch them slipping up and revealing their biases, like the recent flap where Chuck Todd started talking about “parents” then a moment later used the phrase “parents of color” as if that constituted a separate category. And it isn’t just about race: it also erases an important and much-needed conversation about how four-year undergrad degrees are increasingly insufficient in getting a person very far up the professional ladder.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    André Picard

    Economists are fueling the war against public health. A new report claiming lockdowns and masks have only cut deaths by 0.2% is being hailed by conservatives, but it’s bogus #disinformation, by @Laurie_Garrett
    via @ForeignPolicy
    #COVID19 #infodemic

  5. CSK says:

    @Kylopod: @Kylopod:
    This is interesting, because “class” used to be, on the East Coast anyway, a matter of birth to the right WASP or Dutch (in New York) forebears. Money helped, of course, but it was more a matter of having blue blood.

  6. CSK says:

    I also meant to cite @Dude Kembro: . Not enough coffee yet.

  7. steve says:

    More broadly on the sort of but not really Hopkins study Ozark references, which is getting cited a lot by the anti-vaxxers, it has the problem that every meta-analysis has which is deciding what papers to include in the analysis. You can always get the conclusion you want by only including the papers you like.

    There is actually a pretty infamous meta-analysis just on masks and hand washing from a Chinese team if memory serves. It finds that they dont work. If you read each of the individual studies the individual studies all have significant deficiencies, which are mostly acknowledged in the papers. Putting a bunch of bad studies into one larger study does not give you a good study.


  8. Kathy says:

    A few interesting factoids gleaned from the book I’m reading on the Apollo program:

    By the early 60s, there were about 22 thousand computers in use in the US.

    An Apollo launch configured for a trip to the Moon probably carried more computer chips than were in use in NASA’s real time computer center. Not because the Apollo computers were particularly large or required lots of computing power, but because IBM hadn’t adopted a widespread use of integrated circuits in its mainframe designs yet.

    The phrase “We can put a man on the Moon but we cannot do X,” predates Apollo 11 by over 4 years. It was already decried as cliche in 1969, months before Apollo 11 placed two men on the Moon.

    The flag Armstrong and Aldrin planted on the Moon was a late addition to the Apollo program. So late, it was stowed on a landing leg of the Lunar Module, because by the time it was added there was no room inside for it.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    I ran across a new take on “We’re a republic, not a democracy.” The FL state Senate has voted out of committee, on a party line vote, a measure to put limits on citizen ballot initiatives.

    Interest groups have used the citizen initiative process in recent years to pass constitutional amendments on issues unpopular in the Legislature. Examples include establishing felons’ right to vote and raising the minimum wage. In the past, some donors have poured millions of dollars into political committees backing ballot initiatives.

    “Such attempts weaken our separation of powers, imperil our liberty, and place our constitution up for auction to the state’s special interest,” Brodeur said.

    The Sanford Republican told the panel that Florida is a republic, not a direct democracy, meaning voters elect lawmakers to study and make policies, so they don’t have to.

    I’m no great fan of initiatives going back to CA Prop 13’s tax revolt. But this seems entirely cynical. And it’s hard to read the guy’s complaint about special interests as anything but a complaint he didn’t get any of the money.

  10. Mu Yixiao says:

    Oh… I’m definitely going to be enjoying this:

    Buzz Lightyear movie from Pixar (staring Chris Evans).

  11. Jen says:

    @gVOR08: I’m of mixed opinion on citizen initiative petitions. They are frequently poorly worded (in fact, a red flag that an initiative has been written by a special interest is that it’s actually legally correctly worded), and they seem prone to unintended consequences. When I lived in Missouri, it seemed fairly standard that the legislative year following a ballot initiative would see the need for corrective legislation to make the ballot initiative workable.

    On the other hand, the right to petition government is in the Constitution, and citizens who do not feel their voice is being heard (likely because of excessive gerrymandering) should have the right to do something about it.

  12. Kurtz says:


    That article in FP.

    They reached this conclusion by culling though Google Scholar and a coronavirus economic research website affiliated with the University of Cambridge for papers about the spring 2020 lockdowns in Europe and North America. They said they found 18,590 relevant papers. The first 13 pages of their study explains how and why they decided that only 34 of those 18,590 papers merited inclusion in their analysis. They tossed out studies that fail to provide what they deem as “high quality” and long-term evidence of association between specific anti-COVID nonpharmaceutical policies and deaths. Though few public health interventions can typically be credited with averting specific deaths, that is what they are demanding.

    [. . .]

    Most of the selected 34 papers were written by economists, rather than public health experts, and only 22 of them have been peer-reviewed. After all of this cherry-picking, the trio further discounts contrary findings by declaring that the methodology of some of these 34 papers are of low quality, according to their vague standards, or cannot be reconciled with higher forms of analysis. This conveniently leaves only a handful of solid papers from which they draw the conclusion favored by right-wing and libertarian politicians: Public health restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus are a sham.

    Maybe we should build hospitals and public health institutions staffed solely by economists. Every physician, surgeon, nurse, and epidemiologist; people armed with nothing but a degree in economics.

    I just want to know how many faculty members of the econ department at George Mason, members of the Paul family tree, and writers at Reason would choose the healthcare provided by the who couldn’t get that job doing cash flow analysis at Goldman.

    Oh, and there was one, lonely comment on the FP article. The only question in my mind was what bad argument would be offered. Well, it was actually a good point–the cite for Trump counties having higher death rates only included data from one month. Even assuming that’s true, a quick search and scan of an academic paper and an NPR article showed that the pattern holds.

  13. gVOR08 says:


    in fact, a red flag that an initiative has been written by a special interest is that it’s actually legally correctly worded)

    Sometimes both legally correct and thereby deliberately confusing. I’ve forgotten the details and even what it was about, but in Ohio several years ago I voted on one along the lines of ‘remove the section that repealed the revocation of the prohibition of…’ It was like a quintuple or sextuple negative.

  14. Scott says:


    Maybe we should build hospitals and public health institutions staffed solely by economists.

    To paraphrase an old joke: Need surgery? Assume a scalpel.

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Paul Campos has stumbled across something a bit puzzling to him:

    I crunched some stats this morning that are so wildly counter-intuitive that I’m going to post them before trying to break them down in terms of possible causation:

    Per the CDC, here’s the change in the 12-month mortality rate between the third quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2021 — that is, through the second big COVID death wave — and the percentage of that increase that is accounted for by official COVID deaths. These are the most recent statistics available. (All these numbers are just for the USA. I have no idea if anything like this pattern is being seen elsewhere in the world).

    Among 15-44 year old Americans all-cause mortality has increased by 31.7% over the course of the pandemic.

    Among 45-64 year old Americans all-cause mortality has increased by 24.3% over the course of the pandemic.

    Among Americans 65 year and older all-cause mortality has increased by 15.7% over the course of the pandemic.

    The increase in the all-cause mortality rate among young adults during the pandemic has been more than double the increase in the all-cause mortality rate among the elderly. It has been 50% higher than the increase in the all-cause mortality rate among the middle-aged.

    How is this possible?

    He doesn’t have any answers yet but he is “going to dig into these numbers in more detail, especially in regard to changes in specific causes of death.”

  16. Jen says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: That’s fascinating.

    Shot in the dark: the older you are, the more likely you were to adjust your behaviors because of covid (staying home), resulting in fewer non-covid deaths such as car accidents. That would also mean fewer older people out and about preventing younger people from taking risks (e.g., “hey, you might want to stay away from the edge of that cliff while taking that selfie…”)?

    Since that’s all-cause mortality I’d be interested in layering on the suicide and homicide rates by age range.

  17. Mu Yixiao says:


    Since that’s all-cause mortality I’d be interested in layering on the suicide and homicide rates by age range.

    That was exactly my thought. Especially for teens/20s. That’s a stressful enough time in life without all this added BS piled on top–while also removing support groups.

  18. Jen says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Also, numbers. Mortality rates in general will be higher for older folks, lower for younger, so even small increases for both would result in a more outsized impact for younger people.

  19. MarkedMan says:

    @Kurtz: This is exactly what I mean when I say you can’t get to truth by taking a pint of CDC and a pint of Reason Magazine and mixing them together. The CDC reviews actual research and distills it. These libertarian bozos are just whoring out their knowledge of how research works to come up with pseudo-babble pleasing to their Billionaire Boys Club funders.

  20. MarkedMan says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: It doesn’t actually seem that surprising to me. All cause mortality in the 15-44 age range is very low compared to the elderly. Simply put, most people that die are old. So a small change in mortality for those young’uns makes a big impact on the rate, while it takes a giant shift to impact the rate in the elderly.

  21. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Jen: My first thought, as well. If mortality among young people goes up from 1 per 100,000 to 1.3 per 100,000, that’s a 31% increase.

    And it’s still dramatically less than a rate of 150 per 100,000 in an older age group increasing to, say, 155 per 100,000.

    (All numbers made up for illustrative purposes).

  22. Jen says:
  23. CSK says:

    Well, I hope they don’t come crashing down on our heads, the way Skylab was supposed to do.

  24. Kathy says:


    I’d look around low Earth orbit for one or more astronomers holding a geomagnetic storm generator aimed at Starlink satellites 😀

  25. Mu Yixiao says:


    They’re actually designed to fail into the atmosphere (rather than failing in place) and quickly and burn up completely as they fall.

  26. gVOR08 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I have no explanation except that at young ages we’re talking very low mortality rates, so small numbers are large percentages. Today Campos added a calculation of man-years lost. A lot of 85 year olds died, but they’d have lived only a few years more. Fewer 20 year olds die, but they’re maybe 60 years of lost life each. Net, it’s taken as many years of life from the young as the old.

  27. Stormy Dragon says:



    SpaceX says up to 40 of its new Starlink satellites are falling out of orbit

    It’s should be noted that’s 40 satellites out of 2,000, and that the satellites only have a five year lifespan as is. The whole concept for Starlink is that constantly replacing super cheap satellites is significantly less expensive than a bunch of far more expensive long lived ones.

  28. CSK says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    I’m aware of that. It was a little joke. More amusing to those of us who remember Skylab.

  29. CSK says:

    The January 6 Committee has issued a subpoena to Peter Navarro.

  30. Kathy says:


    Skylab was cursed.

    First there was the launch mishap that almost rendered it the most expensive inert hunk of metal in orbit. The first crew was able to fix it enough to live in.

    Then as its orbit decayed faster than expected and the Shuttle* took longer to become operational, it fell into the atmosphere and broke up as it burned up, leaving some charred chunks in Australia.

    *The Shuttle was also cursed.

  31. Kathy says:


    I wonder if they shouldn’t instead issue referrals to the DOJ in the case of Benito’s staff and cabinet. It would save time.

  32. MarkedMan says:

    @Stormy Dragon: And on top of that, they are very low earth orbit, so they decay comparatively quickly

  33. Kathy says:

    Apparently Speaker Pelosi is sending jackbooted thugs around the Capitol to make sure everyone uses fresh tomatoes and absolutely NO RED BELL PEPPERS!

  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jen: That was my first thought as well.

  35. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MarkedMan: Agreed.

  36. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: That too.

  37. Jax says:

    @Kathy: I’m honestly to the point where I would donate to any Republican who is “less crazy” and willing to primary her. And double-donate to the Dem candidate.

  38. Jen says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    It’s should be noted that’s 40 satellites out of 2,000,

    Of the total number, yes. But 40 of 49 launched last week is not a great attrition rate.

  39. Kathy says:


    I’m honestly to the point where I would donate to any Republican who is “less crazy” and willing to primary her.

    I was going to say I’d settle for someone less stupid, but it might be her stupidity and poor impulse control that holds the crazy back.

  40. DrDaveT says:


    The Sanford Republican told the panel that Florida is a republic, not a direct democracy, meaning voters elect lawmakers to study and make policies, so they don’t have to.

    This would be a much stronger argument in a state/country where a majority of the legislature represents a significant minority of the population.