Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

None of you has ever seen a dead donkey

Jerry Stratton, November 9, 2006

After everyone else wrote last night, I feel a bit like Johnboy writing his Hindenburg article weeks after the explosion. In Internet time, “weeks” is just “hours”. I take a lot longer to write than most bloggers do. I still have a Katrina article waiting on all of the facts.

So this is really just a couple of notes quickly jotted down at Nunu’s over a Singapore Sling.


Schwarzenegger took California by a huge margin, as everyone expected. Even the Teacher and Firefighter unions got behind him, sending out this campaign photo.

Arnold Schwarzenegger 2006

And I don’t know who this is, but I’m clearly meant to vote against him.

Lou Paulson 2006

Okay, because I know some of your sarcasmeters are pointing to empty after this election, I realize that the public unions didn’t support Schwarzenegger. But I think they were so blinded by partisan hatred that they didn’t realize that their advertisements looked, at first glance, like pro-Schwarzenegger ads. That’s happened a lot this election; we’ve seen a lot of photographs through partisan lenses.


I have a suggestion for a ballot initiative next year: require more signatures for any proposal that requires borrowing money. There was a total of $42 billion of bonds on the California ballot this year, with one proposal alone asking us to borrow $20 billion. That’s a total payoff of $84 billion dollars.

But it probably wouldn’t matter. We had five new bond proposals and four new tax proposals. All of the proposals that included bonds to pay for themselves passed; all of the proposals that included new taxes to pay for themselves, failed.

Proposalbondtotal cost
1B$20 billion$39 billion
1C$3 billion$6 billion
1D$10 billion$20 billion
1E$4 billion$8 billion
84$5 billion$11 billion
Total$42 billion$84 billion

When I first made that table up, I included a column for whether the bond passed or failed. It was a superfluous column: they all passed. All four of the new tax proposals (86, 87, 88, 89) failed. That’s California, and Schwarzenegger learned his lesson last fall: California voters won’t support new taxes, but they also won’t support reduced spending.

On the other hand, California’s bond rating is pretty low, and it isn’t clear that anybody will trust us enough to loan us that much money. Those total costs are estimates. We may end up having to pay even higher interest just to induce people to buy our bonds.

What we really need is the ability to vote for “lockboxes” instead of bonds: savings accounts that voters can set aside and allot a specific amount of tax money into. They can’t count against the budget unless the voters dissolve them. Once the savings account has the necessary total, the program is paid for. But that would require knowing where the money’s coming from before we spend it. Even the proponents of the twenty billion dollar bond claimed it would be paid for “without raising taxes”.


People are already insinuating Democratic shenanigans, as they do every year, because urban areas are waiting until everyone else reports before they report. On the one hand this is just paranoia: urban precincts are going to take longer to count their votes. They have more people voting. And in any case, somebody has to report last.

But paranoia can’t be discounted when it actually has happened in the past. So one more suggestion: ballot counts remain secret until everyone has reported. This will for all practical purposes remove even the appearance of impropriety and make it harder for precincts to cheat if any are inclined to do so.

In a blog I’ve forgotten in the run-up to this election, someone noted that Americans are trusting ballot counts less and less. That needs to change. Democracies can survive a lot of corruption. But we have to be able to trust our ballots. Adding complex and obscure electronic voting machines is not the way to do it.

The Democrat alternative?

If you didn’t vote for Nobody this year, you pretty much lost the election (and in California, even Nobody lost, because it looks like the results are normalized in some fashion). The conventional wisdom is that this election was about the war, but the only place the war was clearly on trial is Connecticut, where two members of the same party battled it out with one difference between them: one had party support and opposed the war, the other did not have party support and supported the war. The war won by 9%.

No, what I’m hearing and seeing is that this election was about immigration reform. Bush wanted it, he strong-armed the Republicans to support it, and Americans didn’t care until they saw what it meant. The reason Republicans either switched their votes or just didn’t vote at all was their disappointment over Bush’s plans—and their reps support of those plans—to be nice to illegal immigrants. What they wanted were walls. Judging by Pelosi’s remarks, the Democrats seem to have seen this. Expect more walls.

My advice to the Democrats: do something bold. Take a stand. I realize you aren’t going to pass Bush/Kennedy-style immigration reform. I have a suggestion, of course: medical marijuana. Everyone supports it, and you might even be able to embarrass Bush at the same time, since he claimed to support it back in 1998.

And to the Republicans, I’d like to say you lost because you didn’t support medical marijuana, but that’s not true. It’s one of those issues, like being nice to Mexicans, that people say they care about, but they don’t vote that way come election time. No, you need to seriously look at corruption and fiscal responsibility. Take Ted Stevens out to the woodshed. And note that you’ve lost the House: kicking out a few more corrupt Representatives isn’t going to lose you the House now.

There is a big lesson for you in immigration reform, and it isn’t the conventional wisdom that you shouldn’t have supported it. If you had simply showed some backbone and passed the damn thing, people would have complained for about five minutes and by the time November came around they would have noticed that they still had their jobs, their daughters hadn’t married a Mexican, and they would not have counted immigration reform against you when they voted.

Your mistake was waffling. You supported immigration reform and then you opposed it. You supported the wall and then you opposed it and then you supported it. You tried to look like you were doing something without actually doing something. Remember that line at the very end of Animal Farm? That’s what voters saw when they looked towards Washington.

Some Republicans on the net are complaining about Bush waiting until after the election to accept Rumsfeld’s resignation, but that was the right thing to do. If Rumsfeld had resigned before the election it would have been yet another case of Republican waffling, this time on the war in Iraq.

The voters outside looked from Republican to Democrat, and from Democrat to Republican, and from Republican to Democrat again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

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