Seeing disaster relief in a new light

Seeing disaster relief in a new light
Seeing disaster relief in a new light
Associated Press

Nearly two weeks after brutal flooding in Colorado began, the official death toll reached eight people today as authorities recovered the body of a woman swept away by a wall of water. The total number of fatalities may yet grow – there are some people still missing and unaccounted for.

And while the response to the disaster is ongoing, our friends at Colorado Pols published an item today celebrating “the generosity shown by fellow Americans,” noting that it is “one of the most powerful ties that binds us together…. When the time comes to reciprocate as Americans and neighbors, Colorado won’t forget. And we thank Americans everywhere for the support we know will be there in this time of need.”

The same report added a tidbit that I’d previously missed.

Every member of Colorado’s congressional delegation, Republicans and Democrats, has come together to request emergency federal relief as our state recovers from this enormous natural disaster. Gov. John Hickenlooper has already stated that federal relief legislation may potentially be necessary to provide the funding the state needs to address the damage done. The damage to roads and bridges alone is estimated to be many times the state’s annual transportation budget.

Right. And if we look back to earlier this year, when Congress voted to approve federal disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy – funds that were delayed late last year due to GOP objections – 80% of Senate Republicans opposed post-Sandy relief, while 78% of House Republicans also voted against the emergency assistance.

How many Colorado Republicans voted against Sandy aid? Literally all of them.

If this seems vaguely familiar, it’s because a similar dynamic came up in Oklahoma in May, and in Texas in April, when conservative lawmakers endorsed federal resources for their communities after having voted against relief for others.

I suppose the larger issue here is that I wish more policymakers were 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. They balk at federal disaster aid until the rains come and the waters rise.

Why must empathy among conservatives be tied so directly to their own personal interactions?