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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Needed: Stronger Dem Leadership for Katrina Recovery

With less than two years to go before the ’08 elections, the restoration of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is reportedly bogging down in a bureaucratic morass, from levee repair to the clean-up to housing. You can read about it here, here and here.
The thing for Democrats to keep in mind is that, if the pace hasn’t picked up when November ’08 rolls around, we won’t have Prez heckuva-job to blame for the mess. Voters will expect a Democratic-controlled congress to provide some vigorous leadership. If by that time, we are still investing more in Iraq’s infrastructure than our own, we shouldn’t be surprised if Democrats are held responsible.
An estimated two-thirds of New Orleans residents have returned to the city, according to the Louisiana Recovery Authority. The missing third evacuees are most likely disproportionately Democratic voters. Most would come home, if they had a decent place to live, and could count on good schools for their kids and stable jobs for family breadwinners. Democrats must provide the leadership needed to make this happen, not only because Democratic office-holders in the region will be held accountable if we don’t, but because we are the party that addresses the needs of working people. The Big Easy and the Gulf Coast are the proving grounds.
Dems must hit the ground running when the new Congress convenes after the holidays. We do indeed need to pass a ‘Marshall Plan’ for the Gulf Coast, with strong prevailing wage protection. We need legislation to compell insurance companies to honor their commitments at an accelerated pace. National Guard units in Iraq should be redeployed to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, where they can help maintain order and assist with the clean-up. The list goes on and on. The point is to take decisive action, to provide a clear answer to the question ‘What would FDR do?’
For many of the swing voters of ’06, the Administration’s dismal performance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina was the turning point, the moment when they said. “OK, that’s enough for this clown show. It’s time to give the other guys a chance.” If Dems rise to the challenge, and make New Orleans and the Gulf Coast a showcase for their leadership, ’08 will be an even better year than ’06.