Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Perils of Monolithic African American Democratic Loyalty

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has established a few things with clarity:

1. Those most vulnerable (especially, personally) to the weak New Orleans levees were African-Americans.

2. New Orleans African-Americans vote overwhelmingly and reliably Democratic, and Louisiana Democrats probably cannot hold any state-wide office without those votes.

3. [O]ver the five years of President Bush's administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state. .... Louisiana's politicians have requested much more money for New Orleans hurricane protection than the Bush administration has proposed or Congress has provided. ... [M]ore than any other federal agency, the [Army Corps of Engineers] is controlled by Congress; its $4.7 billion civil works budget consists almost entirely of "earmarks" inserted by individual legislators.

All of which raises the basic question: When faced with a very generous but still finite total federal civic works allocation, why didn't Louisiana Democrats "earmark" projects that would protect their most important constituency - New Orleans African Americans?

The answer seems pretty clear: Louisiana Democrats knew they would get those African-American votes whether or not the politicians chose the civic works projects that protected that constituency the most.

There can be few worse examples of how African-American voters have been ill served by their nearly monolithic loyalty to the Democratic Party than the record of federal civic works expenditures in Louisiana.

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