Confederate Statue Debate Rages on in Virginia Gubernatorial

by Jim Geraghty

Happy Rosh Hashanah, y’all. Today, making the click-through worthwhile: Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam debate in Virginia, FEMA goes door-to-door to help out Texans recovering from Hurricane Harvey, Florida learns its own lessons from Irma, and Kurt Schlichter’s important point about double standards.

Look Who’s Reticent about Removing Confederate Statues in Virginia!

Pop quiz, Virginians: Find the distinctions between the positions of Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam on the issue of Confederate statues:

“Our history is our history,” Gillespie said. “And I believe that we need to educate about it, and that we need to teach about it. And so my view is that the statues should remain, and we should place them in historical context so that people can learn.”

Northam reiterated that he wants to see local governments maintain control of the decisions over statues, but he added that if “these statues give individuals, white supremacists like that, an excuse to do what they did, then we need to have a discussion about the statues.”

“Personally, I would think that the statues would be better placed in museums with certainly historical context,” Northam added.

To clarify, Gillespie wants localities to make the decision, but prefers them to be kept in place with a greater historical context, while Northam wants localities to make the decision, but prefers them to be moved to a museum with greater historical context. It says a great deal that Northam isn’t willing to jump on the bandwagon of the “tear down the statues” movement; most national media coverage of the issue would leave the impression that this is a majority of enlightened modernists battling a small minority of radical, racially-incendiary troglodytes.

In Suffolk’s most recent survey, the pollster asked Virginians, “Do you think Confederate statues should be removed from public spaces?” and about 32 percent supported removal, and 57 percent opposed them.

Fox News asked Virginians recently, “When you see the Confederate flag, do you have a positive reaction, a negative reaction, or don’t have a reaction one way or the other?” Only 13 percent said they have a positive reaction, 33 percent said negative, and 51 percent said they had neither. Once again a media echo chamber leaves progressives with the perception that their perspective is much more common than it actually is.

I liked this line from Gillespie:

Gillespie specifically pointed to the marchers who gathered in Charlottesville last month for what was dubbed the “Unite the Right” rally, arguing they shouldn’t be tied to any partisan viewpoints, despite what the rally was called.

“These Neo-Nazis, these white supremacists, these KKK members with their shields and their torches — If ‘1’ were the most liberal on the spectrum and ‘10′ were the most conservative, these people are a yellow,” Gillespie said. “They’re not on the same continuum.”

Another good line of the night, one that probably should be a focus in Northern Virginia:

Responding to the assertion that his plan would only benefit the wealthy, Gillespie said it would help everyone. He also noted that the state’s highest income bracket for tax purposes applies to all those who make more than $17,000 per year.

“My opponent thinks you’re rich,” Gillespie said. “And that’s just flat wrong.”

Checking in on Our Friends in Texas and Florida After the Hurricanes

Texans, Floridians, and other residents of areas hit by the recent hurricanes, you are not forgotten, even if most of the national media has moved on to other big news stories.

The good news is that in both parts of the country, some aspects of life are back to “normal,” or something like it. No doubt some Houstonian is scoffing that he’s unsurprised that traffic jams would be the first part of normality to return.

From the main thoroughfares, it looks like the city is bustling again: Offices and schools are open, retail is up and running, and freeways are jammed. But one turn onto a residential street offers a starkly different scene. Neighborhoods look like the houses were turned inside out. Everything, soggy and smelly, is rotting on the front lawn, and homes stand stripped to the studs. That work was mostly done by the owners themselves.

Houston’s mayor declared the city is “open for business,” but there’s an enormous amount of construction work to be done, and a need for a lot more workers.

The Greater Houston Builders Association estimates that Hurricane Harvey and its relentless rain destroyed at least 30,000 homes; thousands more sustained significant damage. The city already suffered a labor shortage because so many construction workers left during the housing crash and again when oil prices slumped. When prices came back, not enough workers did.

Before Harvey hit, Houston issued permits for about 27,000 single-family homes to be built this year. Now the work will more than double.

Most of Houston’s construction workers come from Mexico, and that has made matters even more difficult, as immigration policies tighten under the Trump administration. The National Association of Home Builders has already made a plea for help.

Clean water is flowing in a lot of places, but not everywhere:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality continue to coordinate recovery efforts. As of Sept. 14, the TCEQ reported that of 2,238 drinking water systems affected by Harvey, some 2,014 systems are fully operational, 77 have boil-water notices and 19 were shut down. Also, the TCEQ said its personnel had made contact with 1,219 wastewater treatment plants in the 58 counties within the governor’s disaster declaration, and 31 of those were inoperable.

As for the continuing federal response, “FEMA opened disaster recovery centers in Houston, Bay City, Brookshire and Orange with recovery specialists who can speak to residents and business owners about assistance and help with filing applications.”

And FEMA employees and contractors are going door to door to help people out.

The people of Bear Creek emerged cautiously from their ruined houses to greet the men and women wearing blue FEMA shirts who came to their front doors. They stood amid enormous piles of discarded belongings that covered their front lawns and spilled over the sidewalks and into the streets.

The FEMA workers answered question after question: Why do I have to fill out a Small Business Administration loan application when I don’t own a business? (It’s a required part of the process.) Why won’t my homeowners’ insurance cover flood damage? (You need flood insurance for that.) Why does FEMA need a copy of the denial letter from my insurer? (To avoid duplicating benefits.)

Yet these survivors of Hurricane Harvey’s floods, like thousands of others across the Houston area and beyond, needed more than information. They needed a bit of encouragement and support.

“Don’t give up,” disaster assistance team member Howard Higgins advised a group of women who had just told their story to him and his colleagues. “We wish you the best. I hope we clarified some of it for you today.”

Higgins was part of a team that had been working for days in Bear Creek, a northwest Harris County community where Harvey’s floods damaged hundreds of houses. The Federal Emergency Management Agency had dispatched this group and others like it to hard-hit areas up and down the Texas Gulf Coast to guide survivors through the first steps toward recovery.

Meanwhile, in Florida, life is also returning to normal; close to 99 percent of those who lost electricity had it back Tuesday and the schools are open again. Some Floridians complained about Miami-Dade County’s preparation and response the at the county budget hearing Tuesday, but even that is another indication that life is getting back to normal. Mayor Carlos Gimenez responded that the county distributed nearly 400,000 meals after Irma and hundreds of tons of ice. “I’m not swayed by the 50 people who came here. I’m swayed by the 2.7 million people who didn’t come here.”

State and local officials are learning lessons:

In Sarasota, Fla., the American Red Cross struggled to staff emergency shelters because many of its local volunteers are snowbirds who don’t arrive in Florida until October or later, said Jacqueline Fellhauer, who manages one of the Red Cross shelters.

“We were just trying to grab people out of the sky,” she said.

 . . . There were “glitches” in the shelter plan in Miami-Dade County, Mayor Carlos Gimenez admitted as the storm roared toward Florida. He had insisted that the county open enough space for 100,000 people. But the Red Cross had trouble mustering volunteers amid difficult travel conditions, and many shelters were short-staffed.

There’s still a long and difficult road ahead, but the story of the hurricanes is, so far, that the weather was the worst and most people brought out their best. The government responses at the federal, state, and local levels were pretty much as good as one can expect.

As Jonah noted in the G-File last week, “if there were even a few convenient excuses to attack Trump over the administration’s response, he would have gotten a ton of blame.” The fact that you’re hearing so little about the response to the hurricanes is a strong indicator that it is going about as well as anyone can reasonably expect.

Of course, we’ll soon need to be raising money to help Puerto Rico . . . 

ADDENDA: My friend Kurt Schlichter and I have different styles of argument, but we end up in similar places. The double standard and hypocrisy of the modern Left created dysfunctional public debate; it will be nearly impossible to resolve anything until we rebuild a consensus on just how a public debates shall proceed. We conservatives can live happily in an anything-goes public arena where controversial statements of any stripe do not risk one’s employment. Or we can live happily in a politer, higher-minded society where sufficiently incendiary, obnoxious, or comments can be deemed beyond the pale and carry significant social consequences. But what we won’t accept is a world where the rules only apply to one side.

Oh, conservatives are now for firing people when they didn’t used to be.” Well, yeah. See, you changed the rules. The rule used to be that you can’t be fired for what you say or think. But that’s not the rule anymore, thanks to you liberals. Just ask that guy who was at Mozilla or that heretic who thinks men and women are different and got fired from Google. Sure, we were against the new rule, but you used your cultural power through the media, the Democrat party, and your corporate coward allies to impose it. So we are not hypocrites for employing the rule that exists now, thanks to you. And we hope you choke on it.

Hey, if you want to change the rule back, let’s do that. Let’s all gather together and state, unequivocally, “No, we are not going to fire people for what they say or think.” Except you don’t really want to do that. You want to have a special rule that applies only to conservatives, but we’re not going to allow that to happen. That’s why we’re going to make the argument to normals for the universal application of the new rules you created. And it’s an effective argument, which is why you hate it. Normal people naturally understand that there can’t be two sets of rules, one for us normals, and one for you America-hating, alternately perverted and prudish, progressive weirdos.

You can’t denounce talk radio or Fox News for being incendiary and vulgar and then cheer for Bill Maher and Kathy Griffin just because you agree with them. America can have a freewheeling public debate with no economic repercussions for unpopular views, or a calmer, politer, less shout-y and more respectful public debate. Pick one, progressives, and stick to it.

The Morning Jolt

By Jim Geraghty