Tuesday, September 06, 2005

As the Tide Turns

Mikaela says:
The story is turning from disaster to political disaster. It seems it's not enough of a story, and now the media turns inward in a self-involved and schizophrenic move to report on the effect of negative media on Bush's presidency.

While that may be a valid story, I worry that it foretells a shift in the wind away from what can be done toward what can be attacked by the Bush administration PR machine as yet another partisan ploy in this moment of national crisis.

Reading today's White House Briefing by Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post, I was struck that many of the stories jump on the bandwagon of calling for Bush to accept responsibility for his lack of leadership and failure to respond to his own citizens -- poor and black as they are.

In this age of postmodern collective attention deficit disorder, we can't keep our eye on the ball here.

The right is going to say that the liberal media is gloating over Bush's failure. Maybe they are. By extension, they're going to say that the left is once again playing partisan politics when we should be uniting as a nation.

I want to go on the record as saying, I wish Bush had succeeded as a leader in this case. For the sake of the thousands who died and the hundreds of thousands who suffered and will continue to suffer, I hope Bush does the job of the century in dealing with the aftermath of this disaster.

And if he doesn't, I hope to all gods big and a little that leadership emerges to rebuild -- if not New Orleans -- our faith and trust in a government that can help, that wants to help, that is committed to helping those who are working hard and barely managing to stay afloat. Paycheck to paycheck poverty is in the national spotlight in the Delta, but the plight is shared in every state across the nation.

That's the message we need from Democrats and progressives, and we need it NOW. What on earth are they waiting for? If not now, when? What crisis has to befall us for them to stand up?

This is not about partisan politics. This is about the need for change. Our government must not only be accountable to the people but responsible for helping those working hard to survive.

Let's all remember that if Bush succeeds here, it will require a significant shift and acknowledgement about the role of government in the lives of the people. Conservatism is on trial here, and the stakes are as high as they can possibly be. Thousands of lives literally hang in the balance. Can the federal government disperse resources efficiently to states and local governments in order to save lives? How can the federal government best respond to the ongoing crises in the daily lives of millions of people who are now out of work and homeless?

Compassionate conservative, Mr. Bush? Let's see it. Wow us.

Whether or not he succeeds, we on the left need to argue at all levels -- locally, politically, economically -- for the role of government in setting the stage for prosperity for all Americans. This means tackling the racism and economic injustice that lead to the disproportionate suffering of Black communities and latino communities and poor communities in New Orleans and throughout America.

We're with you if you're ready to take all this on, Mr. President. Let's hear your ideas. And don't worry. We have some if you don't.