But New Orleans offers up a whole new twist on this sorry scenario. Since 80 per cent of the city is water-damaged and prone to demolition, and since opinion polls show as many as 40 per cent of the city's former residents may never be coming back, Rove and his team of political engineers have a unique opportunity to refashion a hardcore Democratic city in their own image. In other words, they no longer need to worry about gerrymandering district boundaries; they can just gerrymander the population within those boundaries instead.After all, when you control where housing gets built, and what kind, you control who votes.
How can they do that? In any number of ways: by razing whole swaths of public housing, especially in the Ninth Ward, and by encouraging unfettered real-estate speculation on a scale that would all but exclude lower-income groups (read: poor blacks who either vote Democrat or not at all) from areas where they previously lived, often under severely straitened circumstances. Already, there is talk (from the Heritage Foundation, among others) of private takeovers of public property including school buildings and -- one assumes -- public housing. Inevitably, any exercise in social re-engineering will involve some measure of racial re-engineering: New Orleans before the flood was two-thirds African American, with a disturbingly high correlation between skin color and socio-economic status.Eminent domain, after all, is all a matter of whose ox is being gored.
One question, however, will be: how much power can Rove exert? Bush's numbers are literally in free fall. House Democrats have effectively killed any "joint Congressional investigation" into Katrina and the response, which may well lead the way to a independent commission (too soon to tell, but hope springs eternal). And there's the whole matter of state law and city zoning regulations, that simply make it impossible for any one person to do whatever they like. Rove may run Texas, but I don't think his influence reaches very deeply into Louisiana. And Rove is really a power player, not an administrator: he has no clue how to get what he wants, except through a bludgeon.
And that's not a construction tool. Mayor Nagin has shown he's not interested in kow-towing to the powers that be, and Gov. Blanco has yet to indicate she will support the rebuilding of southern Louisiana at any cost. And frankly, it isn't clear that the poor vote all that faithfully anyway. If southern Louisiana's reconstruction is not handled correctly, all the attempted gerrymandering in the world won't make any difference.
Memories are long. Very long. And resentment will remain for generations. Which, politically, will not benefit the GOP. But the larger, and more important question is: how does the community of the spiritual deal with this? The political is part and parcel of our lives; so how do we integrate them? How do we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God? Seems to me the last one is the hardest.
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