Thursday, April 21, 2011

How Republican Arrogance Changed The Political Dynamics for Nixon

Though I'm not at all a fan of the new "compromise" to roll back puppy mill legislation (to see why, check out this chart comparing the various proposals), I've always begrudgingly admitted that the compromise was a good political move for Nixon. After all, he has a strong interest in not offending rural or urban voters, and the Missouri Humane Society signed off on the deal, as well as various agriculture and dog breeder groups. And though I personally think the ethical decision would be to veto the bill, I can honestly understand why Nixon might think the compromise respected the will of the voters and, furthermore, think that if he vetoed the bill but then lost his election, the next administration would proceed to do an even more draconian rollback of the will of the voters.

However, it seems clear to me now that Republican arrogance has changed this equation. Key Republicans, including House Speaker Steve Tilley and rollback bill sponsor Mike Parson, have called for Nixon to sign the rollback bill (SB113) before they attempt to round up votes for the "compromise." In other words, they are demanding that Nixon gives them everything they want first, and then they will "think about" (as Parson said) the compromise.

Let's be clear for a second why they are pushing for this. The new compromise sets its own standards, which are different from the original Prop B and from SB113. So if a compromise has actually been agreed to and they have enough votes, there is absolutely no reason to ask Nixon to sign the bill. So the fact that they are asking Nixon to sign tells us something very important: namely, they're not confident that they can get the votes for a compromise. In fact, Parson even said as much:
You've got to get it through the [legislature] in a short-term period of time, which is a very difficult process to do. We're going to work for that, if that's what the coalition decides.
So basically they are demanding that Nixon sign SB113 because they don't know if they can actually get the votes for the compromise, so they want the default position to be that if no compromise is reached, Prop B is completely repealed.

But if Nixon signs it, puppy mill propagandists no longer have any incentive to push for the compromise bill. After all, it would make life more difficult for the breeders (donors) they are working so hard to protect. They will have to, in Parson's words, work on a "very difficult process" just so that they can make changes that their donors don't want to see? Of course they won't want to do that! Oh, I suppose you could pretend that Parson and Tilley will be motivated to "keep their word," like the good Real Americans that they are, but remember that the GOP base voters do not care at all about honesty when it comes to dealing with Democrats. In fact, they would probably cheer if Parson and Tilley outright said, "Ha! We stuck it to Nixon and he was stupid enough to believe us! And now we've saved the farmers from Communist Agression!" Does anyone honestly see Republican voters in today's climate caring if Tilley and Parson double-crossed Nixon? I sure don't.

What's really scary is that Nixon seems to be considering this terrible idea. Bob Baker of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation (one of the groups that signed off on the compromise) reportedly was called by a Nixon staff member and asked to support Nixon signing the repeal first:
Bob Baker, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, had signed off on the compromise. Then a member of Nixon's team telephoned to say the governor might sign the Legislature's rollback as a first step toward implementing the compromise.

"I'm going to have our legal team look at it," Baker said of that twist. "We'd have to reserve judgment."
Needless to say, no animal welfare group should agree to this terrible idea. You don't give away all of your leverage and then politely ask for extremists and profiteers to please give it back. I hope they hold their ground on this.

But back to Nixon. Like I said, the original compromise was good politics for him. However, the equation has now changed. Because now signing SB113 would not only be the unethical thing to do, and the anti-Democratic thing to do (since Missouri voters clearly approved of the original legislation), it would also be bad politics. First, it would be rewarding political opponents who negotiate in bad faith, agreeing to one thing first and then changing the terms later. Second, it would show him to be incredibly stupid. If he signed the bill and then Republicans failed to pass the compromise, no one would forgive Nixon for saying, "gee shucks, I really thought they'd uphold their end of the bargain." And similarly, it would show that Nixon is incredibly weak, caving to pressure even when he has leverage, and then being pushed around by people who have no respect for him.

Though I disagree with the original compromise, it was good politics for Nixon, And perhaps if Tilley and Parson push the compromise through the legislature before Nixon has to decide on SB113, it still could be. However, it is decidedly not good politics for Nixon to sign SB113 before the compromise bill is on his desk. To do so would make him look naive and weak which, in the game of politics in Missouri, is much worse than just looking like a very conservative Democrat.

1 comment:

  1. Shorter interpretation: Jay Nixon is just a coward with his finger to the wind. Saved you a bunch of space with that one.