Hurricane Ian tests DeSantis, Biden and their ability to work together: NPR


People leave the flooded community of Country Club Ridge in North Port, Florida after Hurricane Ian on September 29, 2022.

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Carlos Osorio for NPR

Hurricane Ian tests DeSantis, Biden and their ability to work together: NPR

People leave the flooded community of Country Club Ridge in North Port, Florida after Hurricane Ian on September 29, 2022.

Carlos Osorio for NPR

The remnants of Hurricane Ian will continue to be felt this weekend and for the next few days on the East Coast. These storms, which occur every year and are made worse by climate change, test politicians and local leaders.

They will continue to be major trials, showing whether the government can work in its most basic functions – keeping people safe and helping them recover when they are not.

“In a way, these events reduce much of the silliness of politics and reach the seriousness of politics – ensuring that a state’s resources are ready to deal with a life-threatening event. and the livelihoods of its citizens,” said Andrew Reeves, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis and director of the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy, where he studies, among other things, politics. storms.

“It’s politics, so I think it’s a good time to talk about these things.”

Storms and natural disasters have always presented challenges for presidents and local leaders. If managed well, they can cement their image as leaders of their communities, appearing competent and trustworthy in helping voters get what they need. If mishandled, they can be major albatrosses spoiling their legacy.

This storm comes just weeks before Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, someone with reportedly presidential aspirations, is due to run for re-election. So the stakes for the people of Florida — and DeSantis — couldn’t be higher.

It may be impossible to judge a leader’s handling of a storm immediately afterward. This judgment really comes with the answers to the key questions facing any recovery: How fast and effective are the rescue efforts? When will power be restored? Can people get food and drinking water? When are roads repaired and bridges reconnected? When can people go home? When can communities rebuild? And where does the money come from?

“These are often kind of pop quizzes about leadership,” Reeves said. “This particular pop quiz happens to be close to a midterm election. Voters tend to have short-term memories. So, you know, even something that’s been six months or a year hasn’t A lot of resistance. But it’s October here. So this event is going to be different.

Billion dollar disasters are on the rise

The number of disasters costing $1 billion or more has risen dramatically since 1980, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which tracks these events.

“Climate science is increasingly able to show that many of the extreme weather events we experience have become more likely and more intense due to human-induced climate change,” Petteri Taalas said this week. head of the World Meteorological Organization. “We have seen this repeatedly this year, with tragic effect. It is more important than ever to scale up action on early warning systems to build resilience to current and future climate hazards in vulnerable communities” .

DeSantis tried to draw a line between the MAGA base and the reality of disaster relief politics in Florida. He said during his gubernatorial campaign that he didn’t want to be called a “global warming person,” for example. He also appointed a “resilience” officer and took other steps that environmentalists appreciated.

But it’s one thing to recognize that climate change is real and try to save for disaster relief; it is quite another to take action to curb the long-term effects of climate change, which it has failed to do.

The approach is complicated by what people say they want. Although there have been an increasing number of wildfires and floods that have wreaked havoc in communities across the country, and despite evidence that climate change will only increase these occurrences, people say they would rather rebuild than move.

Two-thirds of respondents to an NPR/PBS NewsTime/A Marist poll last year revealed that they would rather rebuild in the area where they currently live than move. Politicians will react to this kind of sentiment. It’s going to mean new building guidelines, possibly increased insurance regulations – and money, lots of it.

Money and strange bedfellows

That disaster relief money will come from local and federal governments, which means elected officials need to work together, even those who don’t like each other very much.

After the storm passed, DeSantis touted his conservative fiscal policies.

“We have the biggest budget surplus we’ve ever had, and we worked very hard, of course, to keep the economy open and to make it a state that people wanted to be in,” he said. see historic reserves, even as we continued to break records with income coming in – with no income tax and with low taxes.”

But he also acknowledged that he would need help from the federal government. It meant a kind of detente between DeSantis and President Biden, who couldn’t have had more different political outlooks.

Hurricane Ian tests DeSantis, Biden and their ability to work together: NPR

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, left, speaks with Kevin Guthrie, director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, during a press conference, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, in Largo, Florida.

Chris O’Meara/AP


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Chris O’Meara/AP

“I have a feeling the administration wants to help out,” DeSantis said on Fox News this week.

It’s quite a turnaround since DeSantis was in Congress and voted against funding the victims of Superstorm Sandy in 2013.

“This ‘credit card mentality’ is part of the reason we end up with nearly $17 trillion in debt,” DeSantis said at the time.

Along with local politics at stake, it was the Tea Party era that helped Republicans win the House in 2010. Their message, to a large extent, was about the federal debt. Often under the Obama administration, many House Republicans have voted against measures that have traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support, such as raising the debt ceiling and funding disaster relief.

In 2018, DeSantis voted for emergency funding following hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which affected Puerto Rico, Texas and, notably, Florida.

Biden said this week that he spoke with DeSantis multiple times. When asked if he and DeSantis would meet when Biden visits Florida, the president said, “I’ll meet anyone around. The answer is, yes, if he wants to meet.”

DeSantis has regularly made criticism of Biden a staple of his re-election campaign, fueling speculation about a possible presidential race. But, for now, in light of the devastation of his condition, DeSantis has filed that kind of talk.

“When people are fighting for their lives,” DeSantis said on Fox, “when their whole livelihood is at stake, when they’ve lost everything, if you can’t put politics aside for that, then you don’t ‘just don’t go So I will work with anyone who wants to help the people of Southwest Florida and our entire state.

Emergencies have often produced otherwise unexpected relationships – and interactions – with political enemies

This happened at least twice under the administration of former President Obama, for example.

Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist is now a Democrat running against DeSantis. But in 2009, he was the Republican governor of the state. As the state reeled from the economic collapse and sought economic relief funds, Crist introduced Obama, and they briefly hugged on stage.

This hug was used in ads against him and played a big part in derailing Crist’s Republican political career.

Hurricane Ian tests DeSantis, Biden and their ability to work together: NPR

President Barack Obama (right) is greeted by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie upon arriving in Atlantic City, NJ on October 31, 2012 to visit the areas hardest hit by Super Hurricane Sandy.

Bijou Samad/AFP via Getty Images


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Bijou Samad/AFP via Getty Images

Then-Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was an acerbic critic of Obama, but later worked with Obama to secure Sandy’s funding. Christie faced a lot of conservative criticism for her embrace of Obama and arguably hurt her presidential ambitions.

In April 2020, another New Jersey governor, Democrat Phil Murphy, who had been critical of Trump, visited the White House to lobby President Trump for coronavirus humanitarian aid. In June, after the pair dined together, Trump announced he had authorized funding for a long-stalled New Jersey infrastructure project. It was a “reward” for Murphy’s presence at the dinner, according to the book, This won’t passby New York Times journalists Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns.

“It’s politics where people have to work together,” Reeves said. “And part of that collaboration involves the coordinated federal response with the state response. It involves governors calling presidents and asking them to declare disaster declarations so that federal dollars can flow into those states. And, you know, it creates troublesome photo operations.”

Certainly, all eyes will be on Biden and DeSantis when political enemies — and potentially political rivals — finally meet, even as the two recognize the need for courtesy now.


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