Flood waters rush through the breach of the Columbia Canal as emergency workers prepare giant sandbags to plug the hole on Oct. 5, 2015 in Columbia, S.C.
Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty

Disaster aid for me, not for thee?

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) caused a bit of a stir yesterday, pushing for federal disaster aid for his constituents two years after voting against a relief package for Hurricane Sandy victims. Asked for an explanation, the Republican presidential candidate said he didn’t remember voting against the post-Sandy package. (He did.)
 
But the issue isn’t limited to Graham. South Carolina’s The State newspaper published this report late yesterday (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up):
South Carolina’s congressional delegation is vowing to make sure the state gets federal help to recover from the historic flooding from massive rains.
 
But less than three years ago, the Republican-dominated, conservative delegation opposed a $51 billion relief bill to help mid-Atlantic states like New York and New Jersey rebuild in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which dealt that region a devastating blow.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, the only Democrat in South Carolina’s congressional delegation, voted for the Sandy aid. Every other member of the delegation – in other words, each of the Republicans – voted against the Sandy bill, though they now expect federal resources in response to South Carolina’s deadly recent flooding.
 
The local paper added, “In the wake of the S.C. flooding, Republicans who opposed Sandy funding seem to be having a change of heart.”
 
Imagine that.
 
If it seems like this keeps happening, that’s because it keeps happening. A similar dynamic unfolded a couple of years ago in Oklahoma. And then in Texas. And then in Colorado. In each instance, Republican members of Congress adopted a posture hostile towards disaster relief, right up until the disaster hit close to home.
 
As we talked about two years ago, the larger issue here is the need for policymakers capable of empathic imaginations. Yes, the hypocrisy matters, but so too does the inability of some elected officials to stop and ask themselves, “How would I feel about this if it happened to me or people in my life?”
 
So many Republicans oppose civil rights for the LGBT community, right up until it’s their loved ones who come out. They support Medicaid cuts right up until they see the program up close, with their own eyes.
 
And they balk at federal disaster aid until their constituents see the rains come and the waters rise.
 
 

Disaster Relief, Lindsey Graham, Natural Disaster and South Carolina

Disaster aid for me, not for thee?