Instapundit points us to this polls:
Fifty-seven percent (57%) of black voters support the federal reconstruction spending while just 17% are opposed. Among white voters, 49% favor the spending and 29% are opposed. This is the first Bush Administration proposal hat has attracted more support from black Americans than from white Americans.
I believe that Hurricane Kattrina may well end up being a huge benefit to the Republican party. Voters in New Orleans seem to be blaming Nagin, Blanco and Bush pretty much in that order for the failures and difficulties in handling the disaster. Bush though will get all of the credit for the reconstruction, and since he seems perfectly willing to throw a lot of money at the problem we can expect the even inefficient results will be spectacular.
There has of course been some tension between Black voters, particularly religious ones, and the Democratic Party. For various reasons this has not yet resulted in any major deffection from the party, although Republican efforts have been gaining ground slowly. The Rebuilding of New Orleans has the potential to change this.
If enough Black voters in New Orleans, say perhaps 25%, decide to vote Republican that would pretty much end any hopes of Democrats winning Louisianna. Add in the potential for such a view to give legitimacy to a revolt against the Democratic Party in other states, and this could spell the end of Democratic Presidential hopes for a long time.
While this is of course good for the Republican Party (if they can pull it off) it is not very good for those of us who a skeptical of the Religious Right and long for a return to small government Republicans. Compassionate Conservatism is Rove's strategy to take his half of the electorate from the middle, leaving the libertarian right and the far left pretty much totally out of the political equation for the time being.
Moving to the left too quickly of course would fragment his base before he gained credibility from the center left. Katrina is a perfect change to gain that credibility and may signal the political realignment that Rove has been trying to mastermind.
Those of us of a less socially conservative viewpoint, and who long for a bit more libertarian freedom will be in a quandry in such an environment. Unless the Democratic Party totally disintegrates, there simply isn't room in the system for a successful third party challenge. As the Democratic party looses the center, it's own internal politics will force it further to the left (a trend we are already seeing even before this) and make it even less palatable to a libertarianish Republican. Further, although we will probably not be able to count on small government, the Republicans will probably, even as the move further away from us, throw us the occassional bone which will make it difficult to judge electorally if the bargain is worth it or not.
Unfortunately, we probably can't hope that rebuilding of New Orleans fails either. Beyond the human suffering which such a failure would mean, New Orleans is economically very signifigant for our nation. It is our most important port and a good portion of the country depends on it. From this perspective, rebuilding New Orleans is probably a very appropriate federal manner, and part of rebuilding the port is making sure all the infrastructe, physical and human, is there to support it.
Beyond that, failure at rebuilding New Orleans, and the economic damage that would result, could very well inspire a powerful populist movement (John Edwards is brushing up his old speeches as I type this) that would be far worse than the Compassionate Conservative movement.