Politics of Disaster Response, Part Two 

2016 electoral map

Analysis by Reporting San Diego. 

August 30, 2017 (San Diego) There is something disturbing, and barely under the surface, in the reaction to massive flooding. It includes Super-Storm Sandy. The same southern Republican senators who did not want to aid the liberal northeast after that catastrophe, are trying to shame the same area into authorizing the aid for Harvey. Let me make this clear, the aid has to be approved. This should not be a partisan issue. It is not just two United States Senators, but also 20 Texas representatives.

However, what is disturbing is not the hypocrisy. Sure, you can use that word if you wish. I suppose it makes some people feel better. What is happening actually is far more serious. Historians usually mark the beginning of a real sense of nation after the civil war. People entered the war as truly citizens of Maryland, Virginia and New York, with the United States being in the background. What emerged from the war were Americans. The true national project started at that moment, and while regions remained, there were things that were truly national. Whether this was a response to a natural disaster or the Tennessee Valley Authority. 

The response from the political class to Katrina, Sandy and Harvey, as well as a slew of smaller disasters including the current wild fire in Montana, which was at first denied, reveal a return to not just regionalism, but to dangerous fractures along not just political lines, but cultural lines. We are literally coming apart at the seams. 

In total 67 Republicans, from mostly southern and mountain states, voted against this relief for Sandy. This was an ideological vote. They were not just voting for smaller government, pull yourself by your bootstraps ideology. They were voting against a region of the country that needed aid during a major disaster. They were voting against the United States as a concept, as a national project. 

North Eastern Liberals will not do the same. It is quite simple. North Eastern members of the House and Senate still believe in this national project, warts and all. But we are seeing this increasingly. Regions are pulling inwards and rejecting the full nation. These votes are symptoms of this. 

We are returning to the dangerous regionalism that led to the civil war. If you lay a map of the southern states over the current southern states, the match is uncanny. These are also the states pushing the hardest for voting ID laws and right to work laws. They are joined by what would have been the southern border states, with one notable exception: California. 

The issues dividing the country are about labor, the rights of labor, and minority rights. They also include the obligation of government, even during disasters. These are not just different cultural issues. These are not just policy differences. What may very well be at risk is the project of a nation. These are just symptoms. If you want to call this hypocrisy, that is one way to see it. However, we believe this is far deeper than just that. 

Categories: Politics, Harvey, Sandy, National Project, Partisanship

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