The Washington Post reports that Bush faces a deepening divide. His supporters (Republicans and many Democrats) hang with him in defending the federal government and its titular head, while the rest of the nation begins to stand separately, newly hostile to federal centralism in its most recent brutish incarnation in Katrina-land.
Republicans as defenders of all that is large, all that is central, and all that is government may seem to many Americans otherworldly, or strange.
Party loyalty must be overcoming party history, we might think. It’s temporary, we might hope. Especially those of us who were raised (in error) to believe Republicanism meant decentralization, fiscal conservatism and classical liberalism.
The GOP is the once and future party of centralization. It is the real party of the big state and heavy-handed national nannyism. The judiciary and the media — theoretically twin paladins of a limited state — happily snuggle at the bosom of the post Cold War American political dynasty — a Republican dynasty that governed as it wished with Bush Sr, Clinton/Gingrich, and W. Dearest.
Americans are increasingly appalled at Republican behavior specifically, and central state incompetence generally, in terms of threat response — whether it is to terrorism, accident or perfect and imperfect storms.
Will the madness stop? Is a paradigm shift pending? The original party of federal lockstep — posing at various times as the party of capitalism, or of classical liberalism, or of decentralization, or compassionate conservatism — has in fact never functionally shifted.
What of neocons and paleocons? What about the hijack of the party of Lincoln by the universalist interveners who worship mass society and nationalism in economic, spiritual and philosophical arenas? Hardly a hijack, it appears. Neoconservatives from a variety of parties found a sweet welcome in the Republican house. The door was open, beds were turned down, Kool-aid of state capitalism and ever-restricted individual freedom was flowing with abandon.
Katrina 2005, as in the 1927 flood, has stripped bare the inanities of federal government intervention and given us all a front seat view of centrally controlled bedlam.
Wal-mart sent their own trucks of water, to find them turned back by federal agents. Hospitals in New Orleans called private managers and suppliers, who worked outside federal channels and even in opposition to them to bring mercy and save lives. A boy steals a school bus from a parking lot filled with them, takes Katrina victims to safety. He faces federal charges, probably for embarrassing FEMA.
We haven’t begun to hear the real stories of bureaucratic stupidity circa September 2005, but rest assured we will. Angry guardsman and reservists belatedly returned home from the imperial playground of Iraq will certainly have some observations to share. A new generation of TV reporters have tasted the blood of the Leviathan and felt the rage of being gripped helpless in its ugly maw. Surviving residents of the beleaguered cities and states will go into new places and begin new lives, but they will not go quietly and they are no longer the same. For many, paradigms of faith in government solutions have been shattered.
The Washington Post has it wrong. Americans are actually united in their initial assessment of Katrina and the central state’s lack of preparation and utterly counterproductive and deadly response. The human death and destruction was a man-made disaster, with Washington bureaucrats hunched in robes, stirring the brew and muttering.
One result of this unity of spirit and unity of understanding should be large numbers of people who informally and formally exit the Republican Party. For so many, it is getting burdensome to say "I am a Republican, but…."
There is a biblical parable that talks about wheat and tares. The tares — a vicious weed that produces no value — were sown by an enemy in the spring, and it threatened the survival of the people. Helplessness and injustice screamed, and the people were angry. But the advice given was to wait until the harvest, and then separate the tares from the wheat. The situation could be then safely corrected, and the good crop salvaged.
It’s September, and harvest time is here. The GOP has proven true to its roots, and is in full flower. Conservatives — caretakers and custodians of land, culture and liberty — know exactly what to do.