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Hurricane Politics Challenges Dems to Recast Strategy

by EDM staff

Democrats have an unprecedented opportunity to dominate the political debate as a result of weaknesses in GOP policy revealed by Hurricane Katrina, according to a pair of articles appearing in TomPaine.com and American Prospect Online. But to have a favorable impact in upcomming elections, credible solutions offered by Dems must come in the context of a more thougthful long-range strategy. As Michael Tomasky asks in his American Prospect article "A Perfect Storm":

Is Hurricane Katrina a transformative political moment? Is this finally the time when Americans appraise the failure of the Bush administration -- that is, the failure of modern conservatism -- and say, “Enough”? Can liberals seize the opportunity those failures represent to make a case for a different society, in which repeated warnings about the dangers facing a great city aren't mocked with budget cuts, in which citizens don’t go days without water and food -- a society in which mutual and shared obligations are taken seriously?

TomPaine.com's Patrick Doherty adds in "To Rebuild and Restructure":

As Democrats begin to recognize that the devastation from and the response to Hurricane Katrina has exposed the insidious failings in the conservative project, they must do more than revive the post-1964 debate between the left and the right on the role of government and how best to stimulate the economy.

The reason is simple. Setting aside the bungled emergency planning and response, the major issues at play in the Gulf Coast reconstruction are local manifestations of national problems. To rebuild the Gulf Coast and do nothing to address national-level root causes will only ensure that the goodwill flowing into the region will be twisted by forces more powerful than today's outpouring of national sympathy.

Doherty goes on to discuss the challenges Dems face with respect to Ecosystem depletion, suburban sprawl and federal deficits, and he concludes:

today the debate must be about a new economic engine that is sustainable in every dimension: environmental, fiscal and social. Let the conservatives defend the old economy. It's time for progressives to lead

Well and succinctly said. Tomasky echoes the point in his longer piece:

There may never again be a chance quite like this to draw a crystal-clear line from the A of conservative ideology to the B of the administration’s Katrina failures to the C of the broader lessons about American society. The right, we can be sure, will fight to ensure that its syllogism -- the A of bloated bureaucracy to the B of government failure to the C of replacing government action with private relief -- is the one that takes hold of the public consciousness. Now is the time to make the kinds of arguments Democrats haven’t made for a generation.

Tomasky and Doherty's articles provide a good beginning in the search for a more effective Democratic strategy in post-Katrina America.