In his most recent New York Times column, David Brooks further explains the conclusions of his previous column on the political aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

Reaganite conservatism was the response to the pessimism and feebleness of the 1970's. Maybe this time there will be a progressive resurgence. Maybe we are entering an age of hardheaded law and order. (Rudy Giuliani, an unlikely G.O.P. nominee a few months ago, could now win in a walk.) Maybe there will be call for McCainist patriotism and nonpartisan independence. All we can be sure of is that the political culture is about to undergo some big change.

The strangest part of this column is the fact that Brooks seems so uncertain. Just like us normal people, he seems to have been horribly shaken up by recent events. The old Brooks would have suggested that the hurricane would lead to a change in the polarizing trend of American politics, as political radicals on both sides of the spectrum were marginalized.

Whether such a sea change occurs in American politics is dependent on an incredibly unpredictable variable - the American people. Even assuming that Katrina is able to permanently jolt the American people out of our national atmosphere of normalcy and complacency, it is impossible to predict how we as a nation will react and whom we shall blame. Will the Bush Administration, having survived assaults from a thousand different directions, finally succumb to a hurricane whose effects were exacerbated by their regressive environmental policies? Will the state and local officials whose criticism of the federal government has heightened in recent days ultimately be found at fault? Or will the media's images and descriptions of a city mired in anarchy cause us to blame the people of New Orleans for their troubles?

I am not psychic, so I can only hazard a guess at what the future holds. It may be my cynical worldview, but I suspect Katrina's impact will be primarily regional, rather than national. While it is possible that the rebuilding of New Orleans will include austerity measures to help improve the economy, the legislative history of the past five years suggest that is unlikely. The financial burden of reconstruction will most likely expand the federal deficit instead of the federal tax rate.

But it is clear that the destruction of New Orleans will almost certainly have a dramatic effect on the South. I suspect it includes a shift toward more progressive politics, as thousands of people realize they have almost nothing, and that a governmental safety net is far more important than whether homosexuals are allowed to marry.[1] I still have no clue how widespread it will be. Will the change only affect local and state politics, or will it affect congressional elections in 2006? Will it have an impact on the 2008 presidental election, as Brooks seems to suggest? Will the diaspora of New Orleans citizens to other Southern states substantially affect politics in their temporary locations?

I do not have answers to these questions. In many ways, I agree with Brooks; it is too early to even make educated guesses about the specifics of Katrina's political impact. It has been barely a week since the hurricane hit New Orleans. I suspect we have not even begun to see the beginning of the changes that the hurricane and flooding will bring to the Gulf Coast and the South.

[1] This is not to say that homosexual marriage will somehow become acceptable to the flood victims. I expect to see more moderate Democratic politicians like Mark Warner and Brian Schweitzer.