Now that the leak is under control, what’s next?

By Jamelle Bouie


Michael Tomasky riffs off of Grist’s David Roberts to ask these questions about our eventual response to the Gulf oil spill:

Would people be up in arms demanding the government find a solution at any price? Would a majority of Americans grasp the connection between the need for government and regulation (in this case, the acoustic switch and other redundancies that other governments require in offshore operations but the US does not) and the possible prevention of something like this?

Or would Americans just say, well, this is tragic, but it’s one of those things that happens and it’s not an excuse for more government?

I don’t have a good answer to this question. My hope is that the Gulf oil spill and resulting ecological disaster are enough to penetrate the public’s cynical mistrust of government, and push it towards grasping the critical importance of good government. That said, I wouldn’t be shocked at all if the public came away from this with its attitudes reinforced, especially since one of the two major political parties is wholly enthrall to a vehemently anti-government ideology. When the public takes its cues from elites, and one group of elites swears that the government has no role in the matter, there’s a fair chance that a good chunk of the public will agree, regardless of the merits.

And so, as we breathe a sigh of relief over the seemingly successful to “plug the damn hole” and begin to take stock of the spill, I fully expect a large swath of the conservative movement to stand against any new regulation while bleating about the specter of “more government,” despite the fact that more (and better) government is exactly what we need to prevent a repeat of this disaster. The depressing truth is that it’s impossible to come away from this with a constructive solution when one of the two major parties is devoted to realizing a world where government exists solely to invade countries, enrich the privileged, and violate civil liberties. It might sound like I’m using the spill as an excuse to bash conservatives, but I’m really not. Right now the most pressing issue in American politics is the fact that only one of the two parties is genuinely interested in governing. As long as that remains the case, I am going to point it out at every opportunity.

Photo Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times