by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
August 28, 2008
HOW KATRINA AND ITS AFTERMATH SWEPT AWAY THE G.O.P.
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- The feeling at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this week is one of euphoria, and deservedly so. Democrats believe that 2008 will be a watershed year for the party and liberalism and an electoral repudiation of the Bush years on an epochal scale.
Three years ago, few would have thought it could happen. Republicans were still riding high, and conservatives talked about a permanent majority. Liberals were in despair.
Then, three years ago this week, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Bush Administration left a great American city to die.
In New Orleans, the nation saw the true nature of President Bush's so-called compassionate conservatism. Americans were appalled by the scenes of squalor and chaos that were on their television screens - scenes that weren't supposed to happen in the most powerful nation in the world. They were even more appalled by the inadequate response by the federal government to the disaster.
The Bush Administration compounded a natural disaster with an unnatural disaster of incompetence, arrogance and greed. Three years after the storm, New Orleans is the No. 1 city in percentage of housing ruined or vacant. Of the 10,000 rental homes that were promised to be repaired or occupied by August of this year, only 82 have been finished.
None of the 116,708 homeowners who were supposed to receive financial help from the $10 billion federal Road Home Community Development Block grant have seen any money. Public housing has been razed and not replaced. Only 11 percent of the families who used to live in the Lower Ninth Ward have returned. The city has only half the people it did before Katrina, about 239,000.
More than 215,000 homes were destroyed by the storm. Nearly 72,000 still stand vacant, ruined and unoccupied. Homelessness has doubled and the city beyond the French Quarter remains but a shadow of what it once was. At the current snails pace of assistance from the federal government, it's estimated it will take up to 25 years to rebuild New Orleans, assuming another major hurricane doesn't come along.
In those numbers, one can see why the Democrats are now ascendent. Katrina has become shorthand for how Republicans care only about power and care nothing for governing.
In a time when everything seems up for grabs and globalization, terrorism and economic upheaval are buffeting Americans, they want to see a return to an activist government that plays a positive role in our lives.
Why has the nation's highway, bridge and rail infrastructure declined to its worst point since the Great Depression?
Why are states having to sue the Environmental Protection Agency to get it to enforce environmental laws?
Why have food poisoning outbreaks and tainted drug imports become commonplace?
Why was a housing bubble allowed to inflate while federal regulators did nothing?
Why are veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan in need of mental health care, and unable to get it?
Why is K-12 education failing, despite the No Child Left Behind Act?
Why did a projected $5.6 trillion, 10-year surplus in 2001 become a $2.4 trillion deficit for fiscal year 2009?
Because our government has ceased to function on so many different levels, and Republicans have planned it this way.
From running the military into the ground in a war of choice in Iraq, to putting industry cronies in charge of regulatory oversight, to undermining career civil servants with political appointees in every federal agency from the EPA to the Justice Department, the Bush Administration has shown total contempt for the idea that government must serve the public good. Instead, these men have looted the treasury and trashed the government almost irreparably.
If you are wondering why liberalism now is looking good to many Americans, the fruits of 7 1/2 years of the Bush Administration's misrule are the reason why.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for nearly 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.