America’s politics of disaster

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By Nazarul Islam, Contributing Editor, Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi, TIO: United States may be grappling with crises rooted in nature, but it is politics underpinning the response to the health and safety problems affecting people of all political stripes. While in the past, a hurricane or other devastating event had brought communities and the nation together to help neighbors, the current crises are merely exposing America’s deep partisan divides.

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In times of natural disasters, we try to put the politics aside and come together to rally around the flag. But when one studies the response to recent national disasters we have observed that politics has been turning, much more cutthroat.

Some US Presidents have been criticized in the past for their disaster responses, such as George W. Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina or Donald Trump’s paper towel-throwing display in Puerto Rico that became a metaphor for his attitude toward the hurricane-ravaged U.S. territory. But the recent crises are dividing the populace, as well, along ideological lines, experts say.

Disaster politics provide a valuable insight into some really important transformations in our politics. In times of natural disasters, one endeavors to put politics aside and come together to rally around the flag.

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It used to be that disasters were more bipartisan. No one would want to be seen as the person to politicize it. But the content-demanding 24/7 news cycle and a highly charged political environment, being the incentive is the opposite, to be the first hand to cast a stone.

Nowhere is that more evident right now than in the Lone Star State, where storms and unusual freezing temperatures overwhelmed Texas’ own power grid and left people without basic services.

This state’s famed go-it-alone approach has critics complaining that Texas’ grid – unconnected to the national grid – leaves the state vulnerable to storms, while others say that’s just part of what it means to be a proudly independent Texan.

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Texas is very urban but identifies as rural, and the result is that so many things end up dividing Texans along ideological or party lines. Residents of the state are in this cycle where everything becomes intentionally created to divide. There is a clear distinction between what is the Texas way and what is the outsiders’ way.

Still, with the crisis – on top of the pandemic crippling much of Texas, the bootstraps argument is growing thin, and state officials are on the defense.

Gov. Greg Abbott had previously used the crisis to blast the – still very theoretical – Green New Deal, saying if America relied on renewable energy, such events would be more common. He later walked back his comments, saying it was gas and coal failures that led to the power outages.

Biden-declares-major-disaster-in-texas-after-severe-weather-conditions

Colorado City Mayor Tim Boyd resigned after posting comments to his Facebook page telling “lazy” residents they should fix their own power troubles.

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“Only the strong will survive,” Boyd wrote in the now-deleted post.

Rick Perry – a former Texas governor and secretary of energy from 2017-19, has expressed his anger in an interview that a few days of powerlessness are worth it to Texans if it means avoiding Washington interference. Texas has its own power grid, losing both the federal regulation and the back-up that comes from being part of one of the two, linked national grids.

A disgusted Perry had further warned that Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business Like others, Perry was denounced as well, by Democrats and on social media for his fiery remarks.

Curated By Humra Kidwai

 

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Nazarul Islam

Nazarul Islam

The author is a former Educator, based in Chicago (USA).

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