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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Why Conservatism Is Failing Us

I’ve written a quick and unhappy reaction to the president’s big speech from New Orleans this evening over at TPMCafe.But in terms of understanding the broader issues being raised by the Katrina disaster, the incompetent response, and the impending recovery, I urge you to read a statement by DLC Chairman and Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack that was posted earlier today.Here are some excerpts:

The failures in our national response to Hurricane Katrina did not simply stem from mistakes, however egregious, of individuals whose replacement with more experienced and competent public servants will take care of the problem in the immediate and distant future. These failures represent the broader failure of an ideology of contempt for the responsibilities of government, and for the sense of community that is fundamental to genuine self-government….We are learning every day that there really is something worse than a big, debt-ridden government that tries to do too much and fails. It’s a big, debt-ridden government that tries to do too little, and succeeds….The devastation and human tragedy of Hurricane Katrina provides a painful but necessary opportunity for us all to rethink our attitude towards our own public institutions and those who serve in them, rejecting the false choice of government as an end in itself and government as a dead end remote from our worthier endeavors.And that’s why current Republican proposals to turn the Gulf Coast into a conservative ideological laboratory with private-school vouchers, wholesale deregulation, and suspension of wage standards on federally financed construction projects must be rejected. A second, ideologically driven abandonment of public responsibility in this region would be intolerable.

Vilsack nicely ties together the past, present and (potentially) future failures of the conservative ideology in addressing America’s most urgent needs. It’s a timely analysis, and warning.

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