Republicans hate “the government,” especially “the federal government.” That ideology has run through the Republican Party for decades, including opposition to regulation of financial markets, opposition to Medicare, calling for the elimination of the Departments of Education, Commerce, etc. President Ronald Reagan once famously said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” Ask residents of New Orleans how that Republican hands-off approach worked for them during Hurricane Katrina. This Republican ideology is being sorely tested again now by Tropical Storm (soon to be Hurricane) Isaac.
How many Republicans, including those gathering in their government-funded building in Tampa, Florida for their national convention, are getting their Isaac storm updates and forecasts directly or indirectly from the National Weather Service (NWS) and its National Hurricane Center, part of the very Department of Commerce that Republicans wanted to eliminate? How many of them are tuned into The Weather Channel, which is getting its storm information from NWS, as is CNN? (Fox is conveniently omitting the source of its satellite weather maps and storm forecasts). If Republicans in Tampa need to evacuate due to Isaac, how many of them will use Interstate 75, part of the federal interstate highway system? How many convention attendees are flying in and out of Tampa and thus depending on the Federal Aviation Administration to keep them safe while Isaac hits their area?
The problem with the rigid Republican anti-government ideology is that, while it might sound good in an air-conditioned think tank or behind a podium in Washington, D.C., it doesn’t resonate so well with people being hit with a tropical or financial storm. Indeed, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the Department of Homeland Security, has already sent teams to Florida and Louisiana to help with Isaac’s impact. President Obama may well send federal disaster funds to the Gulf states if Isaac causes significant damage. If Republican politicians are true to their ideology, they will send the FEMA workers and the federal dollars back to Washington immediately. But don’t count on that happening.