Last night Bill Maher, on his Real Time monolog, did a bit about where viewers could go to help "those victims most devastated by Katrina," and gave the number of the Republican National Committee.
The elephant in the Republican living room, the huge bugaboo too few in the media have been willing to confront, is the right wing's racist and classist priorities. The Republican party is overwhelmingly concerned with benefitting the privileged and the wealthy, and they use their political power to protect those parties: they cut public school funding because rich kids go to private school, they cut public college funding because rich kids go to private colleges, they cut public health care because rich folks all have health insurance, they limit the ability of customers to sue for malpractice because the rich are not victimized by malpractice, they support an all-volunteer army because a draft would impact rich kids, they send poor kids in the "volunteer" army to fight wars that build the trust funds of rich kids.
The fact of the matter is that Republican public policy ever since Hoover has been to ignore, exploit, and neglect the poor. That is the elephant in the Republican living room, the enormous and contemptible class warfare practiced by the rich against the poor.
And so it becomes more convenient, and better political strategy, to imply that somehow poor people are at fault for the tragedies inflicted upon them. In this country, many of the poor are not Anglo. And so, when you have a city in crisis, one of the most culturally-rich but economically-strapped (not to mention corrupt--I used to live there), in which the people worst hit are poor, brown, and disenfranchised, then you don't really have to concern yourself with their political responses to a government's criminal neglect.
FEMA's own director said that if people were told to evacuate, and didn't, they more-or-less deserved what happened to them. He ignored the fact that many didn't have transport, that no public/federal transport was made available in time, that many of those who stayed didn't dare leave, for the same reason that Iraqis refuse to leave war zones. If everything you own, everything you've spent your life working hard to try to build (home, business, personal belongings) is going to be abandoned to looters by a government to cheap to send military defense in time, of course you won't leave.
Bush has created economic, personal, or human disasters in every job he's ever held, and every one he's abandoned. Of course he presumes that people can just leave if a disaster looms--that's what he's always done.
And how do the Bush handlers try to "shift the story"? They send him to New Orleans so he can be photographed hugging a black person. That photo tells a very very profound lie: about Bush, about Bush's government, about Republican public policy.
They are greedy villainous scoundrels. The level of incompetence in the Bush White House and congress should have the opposition talking impeachment.
And Condoleeza Rice, who was shopping at Ferragamo and attending Spamalot as Katrina hit, and who has no domestic policy brief, was nevertheless trotted out to "sharply contest" the idea that the White House was neglecting black people. She is beyond contemptible.
But the chickens are coming home to roost. Here are some predictions--test my own political savvy:
- The oral/vernacular culture of New Orleans will survive: the music, food, community feeling, and attachment many feel for the place will all live on. But the physical culture--most notably, the historic buildings--will be virtually obliterated by large-scale government and corporate jackals who will make millions through rebuilding in a faceless generic style designed to titillate the tourists and ignore the locals--kind of like they're doing in Baghdad.
- Bush will rebound from the devastating condemnation of his lacking leadership with his core support (social conservatives, Congress, multinational corporations, foreign oil-based governments) largely intact, because that core support doesn't give a shit about poor people. Kind of like in Baghdad.
- The mainstream Democratic party leadership will give lip service to condemning the Republican response, but they will not dig too deeply into the criminal financial and federal neglect that led to the levees breaking, because then they would have to admit their own massively cowardly, obsequious behavior in the face of Republican naked-fist greed. Just like they did with the Congressional resolution giving Bush wartime powers to invade Iraq.
- Grass-roots oppositional organizations and leaders--PAC's, news outlets, organizers, and new left-wing candidates--will by comparison speak out in brutal and effective terms about Republican neglect.
- As a result, the Republicans will lose seats in, and probably control of, the Senate in the 2006 elections. The only Republican governors in the Katrina states who keep their seats will be those who (a) have risen to the challenge of leading effectively and courageously, and (b) distance themselves from the Bush White House. Congressonal Republican rats weill depart the Bush ship, but it will not retain them the Senate.
- As a result, 2006-08 will find Bush a complete lame-duck president, unable to pass legislation, increasingly out-of-touch with day-to-day governing and concerning himself (insofar as someone of his limited IQ is capable of doing) with his "place in history."
- But his "place in history" is already assured: he'll be seen in the same light as Herbert Hoover, who played with his dog on the White House lawn throughout the Great Depression, and Woodrow Wilson, who after a stroke was effectively comatose for most of his second administration.
- The issue in 2006-08 will be to see how far the Republican right wing might be willing to go to try to retain control of the Executive--up to and including changing the Constitution. If Bush manages to pad the Supreme Court, the right wing might succeed.
Worst-case scenario: If it looks to the Bushies that they can't get Jeb into the White House in '08, they will be working from '06 to change the Constitution and seek the Shrub a third term.