The anniversaries of Hurricane Katrina (landfall in Louisiana August 29, 2005) and Hurricane (Superstorm) Sandy (landfall in New Jersey August 29, 2012) represent a perfect storm that continues to damage the Republican Party. Katrina showed President George W. Bush‘s detachment, and the criminally negligent incompetence behind his administration’s hands-off conservative Republican governing philosophy (“Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”) Sandy is said to have helped President Barack Obama win and the Democrats do well in the 2012 elections, but that’s only true if one rejects the Republicans’ “government is bad” frame and accepts the Democrats’ “good government” philosophy. Apparently, many Americans have done just that.
It didn’t help that Hurricane Katrina disproportionally and visibly affected black Americans. The horrifically slow response by the Bush administration gave some people the impression that, as Kanye West said bluntly, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” In the elections that have taken place since Katrina, blacks continue to vote overwhelmingly for the Democrats, with a stunning 93 percent vote for President Obama compared to only six percent for Willard Mitt Romney in 2012. Not surprisingly, in its 2013 “Autopsy Report” following the 2012 elections, the GOP called for more outreach to blacks, as well as other groups such as Latinos, women, Asians and gay Americans. Thus far, however, Republicans have not heeded their party’s advice.
Likewise, when Hurricane Sandy hit, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie welcomed President Obama, and the two engaged in their famous “hug” (which was more like a friendly handshake and shoulder pat). For Christie, welcoming Obama and praising his administration’s federal disaster relief was a no-brainer. Christie put his constituents first, and New Jerseyans rewarded Christie with high approval ratings and huge re-election numbers, at least until Bridgegate. However, Republicans outside of New Jersey continue to criticize Christie to this day for “hugging” President Obama, saying that the event helped Obama appear bipartisan, caring and competent in a crisis, which helped him win re-election. Unfortunately, this Machiavellian view by Republicans reflects more concern about winning elections than about doing good for Americans.
Even the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida was affected by a tropical storm at almost the same time as Hurricane Sandy hit. The GOP had to cancel the first day of their convention (August 27) due to Tropical Storm Isaac, which created the impression of Republicans cutting and running from danger. Why the Republicans chose to hold their convention in Tampa during the height of hurricane season in the first place raises more questions about their competence and judgment.
It is now clear that, when large natural disasters like major hurricanes hit, most Americans turn to their public officials for help. Ronald Reagan‘s famous quote — “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help'” — has turned out to be famously wrong. That does not help the anti-government GOP. What’s so ironic, and hurtful to the Republicans, is their continued denial of climate change, the effects of which may well be contributing to their getting pummeled whenever an extreme weather event like Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy pummels parts of the U.S.
Photo by Andreas Cappell, used under Creative Commons license. http://is.gd/oP4FvA