Democrats & Liberals Archives

Evacuate or Participate

After Hurricane Katrina was predicted to hit New Orleans, citizens of the city were told to evacuate their homes. The rich and middle class evacuated via airplanes and cars. The poor, who had no money for airplanes or gas for cars, did not evacuate. They stayed and were overwhelmed by the cataclysmic flood. The announcement to “evacuate” represents the culmination of several decades of growth of conservatism, which puts each individual on his or her own. It’s time to reverse the conservative trend towards pure selfishness, which is ruining the country. Let’s use a liberal word like “participate,” as in “Why do we not all of us participate in helping the unfortunate?”

The horrible scenes we see on TV today have been caused by Democrats as well as Republicans. Ever since the '60s, both parties have been moving inexorably to the right. Republicans led the way, and Democrats followed. A so-called Democratic moderate is nothing but an old fashioned conservative. Liberals today are few.

Conservatives say:

  • BE COMPETITIVE - You are at your best when you are competing. When you compete, you do whatever it takes to succeed. You know you are a success when you are famous, a winner in a contest, and especially if you make lots of money

  • TAKE A RISK - Take a chance, invest in some enterprise, and become an owner in this wonderful "ownership society."

  • BE SELF-RELIANT - It's all up to you. Build up your resources and abilities so you will not have to rely upon anyone else. Be your own person
These are all good suggestions. It's great to be able to do this. These ideas are the stuff of motivating speakers. However, some people can't do these things, or they do them and do not achieve proper results. What are they supposed to do?
  • BE COMPETITIVE - Suppose a person is not the competitive type? Suppose a person competes and loses? It's easier to be a loser than a winner. What do we do with the losers? Throw them away?

  • TAKE A RISK - Suppose a man or a woman takes a risk and loses? Suppose a person invests in a rogue company - Enron, for instance - and loses all his money? Suppose a person buys a house, which is then inundated - as in New Orleans, for instance? What do we do with these unlucky people? Keep them out of sight?

  • BE SELF-RELIANT - Suppose a man or woman is born of parents with no smarts, no riches and no health? Self-reliance can be instilled, it's true. But if this poor person is denied opportunities available to the more fortunate of us, the path towards success may be destroyed. Again, what do we do with those who are not self-reliant?
Yes, the conservative's message sometimes works - for the individual. It works by making him think only of himself: how can he compete better, how to handle risk and how to be self-reliant. And why does he do these things? So he may be a success, a purely selfish aspiration. According to super-conservative Ayn Rand, being selfish is the best thing you can do.

Selfishness has been growing like weeds. It is obvious, or should be obvious, that as a result of this selfishness, we are now confronted with a tragedy that is probably bigger than 9/11. "Evacuate," leaders say. Here's the translation:

"A fierce, destructive hurricane is coming. The city may be immersed under water. If you have enough money to get out of the city, do so right away. If you do not have enough money, try to stay dry and may God help you."

Conservatism has gone far enough. Time to halt it and introduce a little liberalism. A liberal is concerned not only with each individual, but also with the common good. A liberal improves the economy for the poor as well as the rich. A liberal builds up all the infrastructure in the country for the benefit of all. A liberal makes certain that we have an excellent FEMA that is ready to help all victims of disaster. A liberal does not depend on an exclusive word like "evacuate," but on a more inclusive word, like "participate."

Were liberals in charge, FEMA would have been ready with busses and other vehicles to vacate all those who wanted to leave before Katrina arrived. Of course, those who could pay, could do it their own way. However, those who could not pay, would be taken care of. Also, FEMA would call on everybody in the country to participate in helping Katrina victims.

In an emergency, conservatives say "evacuate," which is good for the well off. What we need are a few liberals to say "participate," which is good for all of us, rich and poor alike.

Posted by Paul Siegel at September 6, 2005 8:08 PM
Comments
Comment #78553

Thank you Paul and Amen!

Posted by: Donna at September 6, 2005 8:50 PM
Comment #78554

Absolutely!
Very well said.
Now if you can get the Democrats to actually start thinking like this, I’ll jump back on board with them in no time…
Until then, I have to grit my teeth and bear with being labeled “pretty conservative” when standing in a group of my fellow Green Party members. :^/

Posted by: Adrienne at September 6, 2005 8:50 PM
Comment #78567

“Selfishness has been growing like weeds.”

Conservatives are just as altruistic, decent, and caring as anyone else. We just have different ideas about the proper role of government and how to promote the common good than do those of you on the left. Do we have to be poor-hating selfish jerks all the time? Don’t you realize that conservatives believe the policies liberals would pursue would devastate the poor and ultimately add to their ranks? Jeesh… we’re saving the poor from you guys, and we don’t even like them. You call THAT selfish!?

rag

Posted by: rag at September 6, 2005 9:53 PM
Comment #78570

You equate conservatism with selfishness. I would match conservative generosity against liberal any day. I have a specific budget of my time and money for community affairs. I refuse to give to any general charity because it is my job to be entrepreneurial about this too. It matters where I invest my time and money and I cant assuage my guilt by throwing money at things that dont work. This is how I feel and act and so do many conservatives I know. We are doers. The difference is whose money you are talking about, yours or the governments. I dont think you can be generous with someone elses money. You cant be generous with the governments money. Evidently liberals disagree.

You use the words to describe conservatives but you dont use them they way conservatives do. With all due respect, you dont understand it. The difference is a sense of citizenship. I respect people. That means I respect their right to choose. Some of their choices will be good, some not. If the results of your efforts are the same no matter what you choose, you have no choice. Risk is the lifeblood of innovation. Most innovations fail. Anyone who has not failed has not tried. When you fail, you try again. The U.S. gives you lots of chances to fail and so lots of chances to succeed.

Self-reliance is also part of self-respect. Nobody is really self-reliant. We all live in a society. But within that system, we can do our part to make life better. Think of it like this. If a someone sacrifices time and money to feed, cloth and educate children, how would you judge that. That is what every self-reliant father or mother does.

Most conservatives I know do this. We also give to charity. We also volunteer in our communities. Our idea of community is different than yours. I dont want to harm the poor; I want to make them stronger. I dont want to manage poverty; I want to do eliminate it when possible. We can help the poor, but only if the poor help themselves. Simply giving money and requiring nothing shows disrespect for the poor and for ourselves.

Posted by: jack at September 6, 2005 10:02 PM
Comment #78572

Paul,

I applaud the ideals behind your piece but don’t care much for the rather awkward usage of the term “participate,” which seems destined to be marked as politically correct speach. My suggestion is that we simply say we want to do a better job of helping those who need it most. Pre-Reagan, that didn’t use to be a sin.

But we shouldn’t overstate the case or we fall into the traps conservatives have gotten so accustomed to springing. There were some people in New Orleans who just couldn’t leave the city, and we should have helped them - we should have helped them get out, get to shelters, get taken care of once they’d arrived in those shelters, or get rescued once the flooding started. Those are the people we’re talking about.

You write, “Were liberals in charge, FEMA would have been ready with busses and other vehicles to vacate all those who wanted to leave before Katrina arrived.” That might be true but I can’t be sure. This lack of evacuation of some of the most needy occurred in city with a Democratic mayor in a state run by Democratic governor. It’s true that they didn’t have the resources of the national government at their disposal, but I wonder if they might not have done better if they’d truly planned better. That’s not to excuse FEMA’s lousy performance or Bush’s poor leadership, but we need to be honest with ourselves if others are going to take us seriously.

We also need to be honest in saying that some people just couldn’t have been helped. They were able bodied and had the resources and yet stayed anyway. They made bad decisions and, to that degree, the conservatives are right in saying they couldn’t have been helped (except in the rescue operations).

It’s all the rest of the folks - the people whose choices were severely limited by circumstances - that we as a nation should focus on helping better in the U.S. The percentage of Americans below the U.S. poverty line, which is set far too low already, has done nothing but rise during the Bush years. That’s because the Bush administration doesn’t have a good plan for helping these people. They’re neither a priority nor a constituency.

The Democrats would benefit if they’d focus on helping those who want to be helped and are willing to help themselves over the long run. I suggest we just call it that: helping people who need help. The dumber conservatives can continue to rail against “welfare queens” and the like, but most Americans know better. They know people need a hand up sometimes. They just don’t want to create state dependency. The Democratic tagline could be something simple that resonates across the board, such as “Working hard for people who need a system that works.” That system ain’t the one we’ve got. Americans can and should do a lot better, and the same should be said about the Democratic Party.

Posted by: Reed Sanders at September 6, 2005 10:05 PM
Comment #78573

—-
The difference is a sense of citizenship. I respect people. That means I respect their right to choose. Some of their choices will be good, some not. If the results of your efforts are the same no matter what you choose, you have no choice.
—-
Does this mean you are pro-choice?

Posted by: tony at September 6, 2005 10:05 PM
Comment #78579

Actually, I am.

I think abortion is a terrible thing and often a mistake. But ultimately, it is the choice of the woman involved. It should be a hard choice, but as Bill Clinton said, abortion should be legal, safe and rare.

Posted by: jack at September 6, 2005 10:10 PM
Comment #78590

well said

Posted by: tony at September 6, 2005 10:22 PM
Comment #78592
I don’t want to harm the poor; I want to make them stronger.

Jack,

I believe that you - like some but not conservatives - actually believe this. I salute your good intentions. But your strategy and the ideology on which it is based is as inadequate to the needs of the poor as the New Orleans levees were inadequate to hold back waters during a Cat 5 hurricane. If cutting away the safety net were the answer to reducing poverty, then we wouldn’t have seen poverty grow in recent years.

No, forget the ideology. Look at it from a practical point of view. There are people who can achieve much but need a hand up. If a man is hanging off a cliff, do you leave him hanging there with the intention of making him stronger and more independent? Probably not. Give him a hand up and then try to help him help himself.

But sometimes people can’t even do this. Just as liberals are in denial about poor people who are also bad people, conservatives are in denial about poor people who really, truly can’t help themselves. They are sick or otherwise handicapped. They will never be able to aid themselves in the way you would demand of them. Basic human decency says we should help them escape their dire circumstances, and volunteering at our local shelter or soup kitchen just won’t cut it. They need the help of the whole community, and this means tax dollars, pure and simple. You can believe you’re compassionate person, but until you advocate that the nation fulfill its duty by helping these kinds of people, I would argue you are compassionate-impaired, to indulge in some more PC speech. It will be easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for …well, you know the rest.

Posted by: Reed Sanders at September 6, 2005 10:34 PM
Comment #78603

Just curious… and I could easily be wrong, but wasn’t Katrina a Class 4 hurricane when it actually made land fall?

Posted by: tony at September 6, 2005 10:51 PM
Comment #78605

Reed

It is a matter of where the help should come from. I am not a believer in zero government. But government has a real problem handling poverty. The best poverty programs have been faith based because they require something of the poor.

I think the poor fall into three groups. One group is made up of people who can never take care of themselves. They need to be cared for. Another group is obviously able bodied. They should take care of themselves. The middle group is the hard one. Sometimes they could take care of themselves, but they lack incentive or character.

Government cant help these guys. Government is alternatively faceless rules and indulgent parent. No good parent gives to his kids without expectations of good behavior. I am willing to help the needy and to help those that can help themselves. But at some point I expect those who can to contribute back. You do nobody a favor by giving him something with no expectation.

Think of poverty in the U.S. like poverty overseas. Foreign Aid has generally been a failure. Where it has worked best is where it has been in cooperation with business practices. For example, micro LOANS work better than micro grants. It doesnt steal dignity. It can cost more and be a lot more trouble to give loans as opposed to grants. But loans are better.

Posted by: jack at September 6, 2005 10:58 PM
Comment #78607
wasn’t Katrina a Class 4 hurricane when it actually made land fall?

Indeed it was. But the levees were indequate to a maximum storm (Cat 5), which should have been the goal of the design of the levees in conjunction with the surrounding environment.

For example, micro LOANS work better than micro grants.

This might be true. I’d need to see the studies on that. But the current system we’re using in the states is simply not working well. Government doesn’t have to be an indulgent parent or a faceless rule. It can be a helping hand and community heart - when it works right.

Posted by: Reed Sanders at September 6, 2005 11:09 PM
Comment #78680

The unmentionable truth is that it is good for the gene pool and good for society if every once in a while there is an event in which the fit and smart survive and the weak and less intelligent dont.

That was the everyday way of life for most of history and a little dose of it once in a while has some benefits.

Harsh but true.

Posted by: Schwamp at September 7, 2005 10:09 AM
Comment #78718
But government has a real problem handling poverty. The best poverty programs have been faith based because they require something of the poor.

That’s not true, Jack. Under Clinton, the Hope VI federal housing program successfully cleaned up and brought new prosperity to America’s ghettos, and welfare reforms were successful at bringing a lot of families out of poverty and helping them help themselves.

Unfortunately, the number of families who’ve dropped back into poverty increased every year for the last four years, despite the Bush administration’s switch to big faith-based anti-poverty programs.

I do agree that some programs could benefit from market-based mechanisms. I blogged a while back about how liberals are spearheading market-based solutions to poverty.

Another good liberal market-based program is the Clinton Foundation’s successful Small Business Initiative in which industry leaders give pro-bono advice and assistance to entrepreneurs in urban communities like Harlem and the Bronx.

Democrats are all about giving a hand up, not a hand out.

Posted by: American Pundit at September 7, 2005 11:57 AM
Comment #78824

Paul,

I couldn’t disagree with you more. Watching the coverage of this disaster has been an eye opening experience. It has taught me that once again liberalism does what it’s supposed to do: make people less self-reliant, less capable, and more vulnerable to harm.

Conservatism has gone far enough. Time to halt it and introduce a little liberalism. A liberal is concerned not only with each individual, but also with the common good. A liberal improves the economy for the poor as well as the rich.

Those who are purposefully not self-reliant are in fact the ones exhibiting selfishness. They are also following the dictates of liberalism.

One thing that this natural disaster bears out is that if you do nothing to help those around you, and you do nothing to help yourself, that you will be the victim, you will be at the mercy of forces that have nothing to do with what political pursuasion you subscribe to. That is the tragedy here.

…Yes, the conservative’s message sometimes works - for the individual. It works by making him think only of himself: how can he compete better, how to handle risk and how to be self-reliant. And why does he do these things? So he may be a success, a purely selfish aspiration. According to super-conservative Ayn Rand, being selfish is the best thing you can do.

Allow me to unbend this truth for you.

Self-reliance is selfishness? That’s a new one on me. The only way that this can possibly be interpreted this way is to completely ignore the fact that we are individuals. We do not exist as a collective consciousness, we are individuals by nature. I’m sorry to report that the ‘blank slate theory’ so well thought of in marxist literature is, alas, not true. And no amount of belief can make it so.

Self-reliance is a requirement of helping others, Paul. If you cannot help yourself, how could you possibly help anyone else?

Contrary to your characterization, conservatives, (and Ayn Rand followers, which are in most cases two very different groups of people), don’t believe in the strong subjegating the weak, and I consider it unmitagated selfishness to say that conservatives believe in this despite the overwhelming proof that they do not.

Were liberals in charge, FEMA would have been ready with busses and other vehicles to vacate all those who wanted to leave before Katrina arrived. Of course, those who could pay, could do it their own way. However, those who could not pay, would be taken care of. Also, FEMA would call on everybody in the country to participate in helping Katrina victims.

In an emergency, conservatives say “evacuate,” which is good for the well off. What we need are a few liberals to say “participate,” which is good for all of us, rich and poor alike.

News flash: Liberals were in charge in New Orleans. Conservatives were in charge in Missisippi. What you had in New Orleans was the perfect example of what you end up with under liberalism. Chaos, a lack of planning, and then a fervent desire to blame others.

Posted by: esimonson at September 7, 2005 4:53 PM
Comment #78988
What you had in New Orleans was the perfect example of what you end up with under liberalism. Chaos, a lack of planning, and then a fervent desire to blame others.

That’s odd. That’s exactly the same way I’d describe living under Bush-style conservativism.

Posted by: American Pundit at September 8, 2005 12:24 PM
Comment #94321

BE COMPETITIVE - Suppose a person is not the competitive type?

You might as well ask “suppose a person is not the law-abiding type”, or “suppose a person isn’t a hard-working productive type” or “suppose a person isn’t the hygienic type”. There are certain behaviors that are a pre-requisite to living and functioning in society, and it’s up to the individual to cultivate them, not to society to accommodate people who fail to.

Suppose a person competes and loses? It’s easier to be a loser than a winner. What do we do with the losers? Throw them away?

Who’s “we”, Kimosabe? What do “we” do with you and what do “we” do with me? It’s not up to me to decide what to “do” with you or you to decide what to “do” with me. You’re not mine to dispose of, nor am I yours to dispose of. Neither are the “losers” ours to dispose of. They own their own lives and what they “do” with themselves is their decision to make, not yours, mine, or “we’s”.

Posted by: A random passer by at November 20, 2005 1:34 AM
Post a comment