Did Katrina change anything?

Ever since 9/11 “changed everything,” Democrats and other leftists have been looking for an event that would change everything back, or at least change something. The search — extending, among other locales, from Niger to Downing Street to al Qaqaa to Guantanamo Bay to Crawford — has been largely fruitless. Then came New Orleans.
Politically speaking, I never understood why Hurricane Katrina might change anything. Unlike 9/11, it taught us only things we already knew — hurricanes pack devastating power, bureaucracies are a bit slow and inefficient; corrupt bureaucracies can be disfunctional; poor people aren’t as mobile as non-poor people but they have enough sense to come in out of the rain; the MSM can’t be trusted; federal power tends to expand in response to misfortune.
The Democrats seemed to have milked Katrina for all it was worth (and, as noted below, it wasn’t worth much — Bush’s approval rating is at its pre-Katrina level). They are now doing what they do best, which is to “move on.” In other words, they are off chasing the next political ambulance.
Some conservative think that Katrina can have lasting impact in the form of pork-busting. Indeed, they believe that if Katrina doesn’t bring about that change, the Republicans may take a terrible beating at the polls. I’ve already expressed my skepticism. I keep thinking about the newsletters Congressmen and Senators send their constituents — the ones describing the “pork” they have brought home or are working to bring home. How do these legislators tell the folks back home that the project they’ve been touting as the centerpiece of their term has been cancelled?
One not-so-conservative Republican seems to be gaining from Katrina, and that’s John McCain. Rich Lowry tells us that “Katrina has indeed altered our political landscape” because “for the first time in years conservatives have listened to. . .McCain talk about a high-profile domestic issue and have nodded their heads vigorously.” But will Katrina really enable McCain to win enough conservative support to capture the nomination? I doubt it. The good news for McCain is that to have a decent shot he may only need to get to the right of Rudy Giuliani. That’s because if a true conservative who is likely to beat Hillary Clinton fails to emerge, Republicans may be pragmatic enough to nominate a centrist. The bad news for McCain is that, given his long feud with conservatives, he faces an uphill battle to become the centrist of choice even in a post-Katrina world.
Via Real Clear Politics.


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