Notwithstanding the obvious observation that 3 weeks is far too little time for government – local, state and federal – to overcome the systemic failings that we observed with Hurricane Katrina, there are significant differences that can’t simply be explained by the sequencing of the hurricanes.
While it’s true that the two hurricanes hit at different intensity levels, the important differences can best be described as a tale of two cities – New Orleans and Houston.
No two neighboring towns better embody the differences between the two main political philosophies competing in the U.S. today – Houston, Texas which is the embodiment of the Lone Star State’s can do spirit of limited government and self-reliance versus New Orleans, Louisiana, aptly nicknamed the “Big Easy” and perhaps the embodiment of welfare state dependence in the South.
It’s not just that Texas is run by Republicans and that Louisiana is run by Democrats. While that’s true, Texas’ even before its recent GOP domination was essentially a conservative state across the board. On the other hand, Louisiana has experienced a cultural and political divide over the last 25 years to the point where New Orleans alone is the powerbase for leftward politics.
And these political and cultural differences showed up starkly in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Consider: in Texas local and state officials coordinated their efforts taking responsibility for protecting citizens and property. Harris County government executive Robert Eckels and Governor Rick Perry worked hand in glove to ensure the efficient and safe evacuation of the 5th largest city in America. Meanwhile Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin bickered during the onset of Hurricane Katrina exacerbating an already disastrous situation. Tragically they continue bickering even now. Yet media reports imply that if the two Hurricanes had been reversed, the story would be different.