Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Stiffen that upper lip
It always brings a smile to my face when Republicans argue that Democrats are the party of elitism. Apparently because the vanishingly small population of humanities Ph.D's favor the donkey, it means the Republicans are the party of the people. The trouble is that whenever you dig a little deeper, you see very quickly what the actual values of the Republican party are. They are not populist. Tell me, who on Earth still cites approvingly 19th-century aristocratic attitudes toward human suffering? Hint -- it isn't the Democrats. NRO's John Tamny writes:

Indeed, in 1887 President Grover Cleveland vetoed a $10,000 appropriation for drought victims in Texas based on his contention that the federal government had no “warrant in the Constitution … to indulge a benevolent and charitable sentiment through the appropriation of public funds.” In 1907 the federal government demanded that banks in New Orleans put up $250,000 before the surgeon general would help fight the yellow fever epidemic there.

Despite the fact that the 1927 flood left 1 percent of the U.S. population homeless, had an estimated death toll in the thousands, and burdened the Red Cross with nearly 700,000 refugees to feed, there was great reluctance on the part of Southern
leaders to initiate federal action. When President Calvin Coolidge refused to call Congress into session to respond to the flood, they backed him.

Mind you, Tamny does not go on to criticize this stance -- he believes that sending aid to the poor insults their dignity. What the penniless and destitute refugees from New Orleans should do, Tamny apparently thinks, is stiffen those upper lips and find solace in their own fortitude, free of government interference. He sneers about out-of-state taxpayers being forced to rebuild on New Orleans, believing that it makes local leaders incompetent.

Just imagine the kind of coldness and detachment it takes to argue in print in a national publication that federal aid should be withdrawn from the flood victims. This isn't about blame, this is about philosophy. One side believes that Americans form a political community, and that when some people are overwhelmed by a catastrophe, we should help them out. The other side believes, deep down inside, that New Orleans was destroyed because of the prostitutes and the bars, and that the poor sods who don't have a platinum Visa to rely on the for the next three months should just go fuck off and die. They really, truly yearn for an age when there was no social safety net whatsoever. And they are completely unapologetic about it.

But you see, because John Kerry likes to windsurf, we're the elitists. Or whatever.


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