Towards A Good Samaritan World

Sunday, October 08, 2006


The phrase "stick and carrot" refers to two ways of motivating a donkey to move forward: beat him with a stick, or offer him a carrot. A too-clever-by-half interpretation of the phrase is that the donkey has a stick propped in its saddle which dangles a carrot permanently in front of its nose. As the donkey follows the carrot, unbeknownst to him, he is also moving the carrot forward. Maximum incentive effect, minimum cost in carrots.

With this in mind, it's not surprising that Republicans' chances of winning the November elections have dropped from 56% to 44% according to As long as Republicans seemed tougher on the border than Democrats, but didn't actually build the fence, they could lure a lot of nativist Donkeys (i.e., nativists who prefer the Democrats on other issues) to support them, hoping for a fence. If you actually build the fence-- if you feed nativist Donkeys the carrot-- then they have no more reason to vote for you. (It's the same reason that overturning Roe v. Wade would be a huge Republican victory but would also hurt their election chances.)

So it's not at all inconsistent to say that the fence bill might even have been popular, as Mickey Kaus and the far right insist (though the polls don't really support it), and it will also be their electoral downfall.

How great would it be if the passage of a fence bill was followed almost immediately by a loss of both the House and Senate to the Democrats! What scalps immigration supporters would be able to claim! What's even more beautiful is that the Republican majority in the Senate now looks to be in serious jeopardy-- just after they signed the fence bill! The timing is exquisite. One month from now, the following narrative may be plausible:

"Republicans' chances began to recover in the late summer and early fall of 2006, driven by lower gas prices, the foiling of a terror plot that refocused voters' attention on the national security issue, the defeat of popular Senator Joe Lieberman in a Connecticut primary that signalled a takeover of the party by its 'netroots' left wing, and a strong economy with the Dow Jones stockmarket index reaching new highs. But the passage of an unpopular border fence bill, combined with a sex scandal, led to the swift deterioration of the Republicans' position, and the Republicans lost a House majority that they had held for 12 years, and a commanding lead in the Senate."

Here's hoping.

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus thinks that President Bush may "pocket veto" the border fence, after signalling-- but perhaps with Clinton-like equivocations?-- that he would sign it.

InstaPundit writes stupidly, "MICKEY KAUS WONDERS if Bush will pocket-veto the border fence bill. He will, if he wants a Democratic majority in Congress." PoliPundit, too, opines that a Bush pocket veto would lead to "real suppression of the base."

Why? Certainly "the base," or at least the nativist sub-section of it, would be angry at Bush. But Bush is not up for re-election. And they have no reason to be angry at the REST of Republican elected officialdom, which has just (disgracefully) taken their side. Not only would staying home fail to punish Bush (much) it would actually (on this issue at least) play into his hands. As one PoliPundit commenter says:

Suppression of the base means a Democratic House. A Democratic House means Bush gets his amnesty bill and his open borders dreams. I’ll be voting Republican just to spite him.

Exactly! A pocket veto of the bill would give the nativists MORE reason to vote Republican, in order to push through the same bills that Bush vetoed, again. By contrast, if the Republicans got thrown out of office, it's hardly likely that a Democrat-led Congress would revive them (especially since the fence bill would be part of the narrative about the reasons for Republican defeat).

So unless the nativists are strategic idiots (which is possible), Bush could actually INCREASE the chances of the Republicans regaining Congress by pocket vetoing the bill, and allowing Republicans to run against him on this issue. But the bills would probably come up again, and pass this time, if the Republicans did win.

On the other hand, if Bush signs the bill, the Republicans are more likely to get the electoral drubbing they deserve.

It's a conundrum. My best-case scenario is for Bush to pocket-veto the bill, and then for the Republicans to lose. But if Bush's veto would probably lead to a Republican victory, the choices are: (a) Bush signs fence bill but Republicans get punished, or (b) Bush vetoes bill but Republicans get re-elected and bill becomes law anyway. Of those options, I prefer (a). And yet how can I actually be in favor of Bush signing the bill?


  • My guess is that regardless of whether or not Bush vetoes the bill, the issue will be a non-sequiter for most voters; I just can't see people switching votes over this bill (unless they're related to illegal immigrants, perhaps). I think it's pretty clear that the Foley scandal alone is enough to totally eclipse this issue when it comes time for people to vote.

    By Blogger Thomas Reasoner, at 5:16 AM  

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