So, before Red left on her trip, I kind of mentioned John Edwards announcing his decision to run for President (big surprise), but I didn’t get a chance to engage her in the part I found a little disturbing: his decision to make that declaration in The Lower 9th Ward.
Since Katrina, Edwards has made an admirable effort to volunteer time, energy and support to Katrina relief. He’s been down there on several occasions and he’s encouraged others to get involved. On the day he declared, he helped yet again with cleanup efforts.
So why do I find myself a little, well, dismayed at the politics of it? Well, maybe it’s the way RedStar has posted so often and with such energy on the situation in NOLA. Maybe it’s those pictures she sent me documenting the destruction and the slowness of the cleanup process.
But I think mainly it’s that I hate to see Katrina and its victims become props for the Presidential race, especially when the basics of cleanup, rebuilding and sorting out the public policy issues involved are still such a struggle. I am not questioning Edwards or his intentions here – I believe he is sincere in his attempts to make “Two Americas” and a renewed commitment to addressing poverty central to his campaign. But when Hillary goes there, or McCain goes there (or Obama even), what then? When little progress is still being made, what can we say? Who can we ask? Who, after all, will bear responsibility, not for how we got here, but where NOLA is going from here?
I firmly believe that a big part of the 2008 election will be facing up to a number of issues we haven’t dealt with up to now; and I’ve laid out a number of them over at my spot. But the point of these problems is that they are big ones that have languished for a while now, and solving them will be complex and take fresh approaches and new coalitions, and not the politics as usual. Katrina and its aftermath won’t be fixed with a photo op, and the manual labor of helping a few folks dig out will only go so far. I look forward to hearing Edwards offer up something comprehensive on moving forward in NOLA. Without it, he’s just a pretty face in a nice photo op.