August 20th, 2007at 08:13pm Posted by Eli
[Katrina is] the signal conservative failure, the sine qua non of all we warn about here at the blog. In fact, we could write about nothing else, and teach our lesson just as well: that conservatives can’t govern, because of their contempt for government.
It also allowed us to gauge our conservative fellow Americans’ moral level.
Conservatives, of course, claim to be patriotic. They claim to be the most patriotic souls of all. Sometimes – say it ain’t so! – they’ve been known to say other kinds of Americans are not patriotic, because they don’t believe the right things about preventive war, theology, and uncritical worship of the President (if the President is a Republican).
But patriotism has a simple definition: love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it.
This is, of course, something progressives have no problem doing. Because it means, simply, that all Americans are every other American’s concern. It means always acknowledging a national community, one to which we owe a constant obligation, parallel to our more local networks. It means that there is a certain level below which no American should be allowed to fall: in rights, in services, in solicitude from Washington. That no one who lives under that flag can ever be left behind. Even if they have the misfortune to live in a city that was hurt more by a hurricane than your city; and even if one city proves tragically less prepared to cope with a hurricane than another. That being an American means: step up. Our nation will sacrifice for you. That is what patriotism means.
Conservatives, on the other hand, were glad to let a certain group of Americans flounder and rot – to gloat that certain supposed local failings trumped national obligation, and use “clever” graphics and just-so stories to shirk that obligation.
It proves they aren’t patriots at all.
Leads to this…
The era of conservative values — a tight-fisted approach toward government aid to the poor, traditional positions on social issues and a belief in a muscular foreign policy — that emerged in the 1990s is coming to a close.
Disenchanted by the failures of the Bush administration, the public is moving away from its policies, values and ideology. This shift is an echo of the late 1960s, when weariness with the Vietnam War and discord at home resulted in a backlash against Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, and the late 1970s, when growing discontent over the stumbling performance of Jimmy Carter’s administration opened the door to the Reagan revolution.
[If] Rove hoped for a permanent majority, his hopes may have been dashed. Today, half the public — 50 percent — lines up with the Democratic Party, compared with 35 percent who align with the GOP. Even more striking is the public’s disenchantment with military muscle, a traditional GOP bailiwick. Today 49 percent think that military strength is the best way to ensure peace, the lowest level recorded for this question in the two decades that Pew has been conducting political values studies.
Here’s something Democrats can really take heart from: Public support for more government aid to the poor and needy is back. The percentage of those who say that “it is the responsibility of the government to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves” has gone up 12 points since 1994, the pivotal year when Republicans took control of Congress with their promises of a “Contract With America.” Support for more government involvement in dealing with social problems is on the upswing overall.
More Americans now subscribe to the sentiment that “the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.” Seventy-three percent concur with that statement today, up from 65 percent five years ago. A nationwide Pew survey last month found that 48 percent of the public sees American society as divided between “haves” and “have nots,” with as many as a third describing themselves as “have nots.” Both measures are substantially higher than in the late 1990s.
I think more than anything else, their callous, mean-spirited response to Katrina was what exposed the GOP as un-American, with no regard for anyone outside their own inner circle.