The question is, What are the strategies we should be using?
The answer is found in all of these comments, and it is simple: a multi-pronged, multi-level strategy. What you do depends on who you are and where you are.
1. Everyone, everywhere. Find a way to help: donate money, donate supplies, open your home. whatever you can do. I read more than one poll yesterday where 40% or more had yet to do anything. If we care as much as we say we care, the donation rate among Dems and progressives must be 100%.
2. Everyday folks, inside the disaster: Share your stories, good and bad. All that is needed is the truth. If, as Haley Barbour said, the situation on the ground in Mississippi is much better than NO, we should hear that. If you were at a checkpoint and they turned away relief supplies, we should know that, too. There is nothing more powerful than first-person. (I started to put something like "Take care of yourself" at the top of this section, but everything I wrote sounded trite. In no way do I mean to imply that people affected by this tragedy should first think of politics; their first task, and our first wish, is for them to be safe and cared for. But, the country still needs to hear from them, especially if there is beginning to be a media blackout.)
3. Everyday folks, outside the disaster: Continue to raise hell. Write LTEs, contact your reps. Be direct, be concise, be respectful, but also be up front about your anger and disgust. Be sure to ask your reps, when are THEY going to speak out? As one state senator told me, "I've often wanted to speak out, but based on the lack of communications from my constitutients, I figured no one had my back." Let them know we have their back.
4. Mid-level politicians: Keep the buzz growing. Begin to call for action, change, investigations. When interviewed, raise the tough questions. Start some buzz in the halls of power, even with your Repub counterparts. Focus on "competence" and "lack of national security." And, be sure to ask the local leaders in the areas you represent, how well are WE prepared, and how do we feel about counting on FEMA after this?
5. Top-level politicians: Wait for the moment, then strike. Focus for now on the relief effort, and be quiet for now on the political ramifications. Give the nation's anger a little more time to build. Hold back, hold on, hold it, hold it -- then in one large, joint press conference (I can see Reid, Pelosi, Nagin, Blanco, and about twenty more), call for the resignation of Chertoff and Brown, and the censure of the President by Congress. List the reasons (should be a fairly hard-hitting list) and have a handout with sourcing and documentation.
If this builds like I think it might, and if we follow the steps above, it could be a political Perfect Storm. I think (without any first-hand knowledge) that something like this is what has kept the Reids of the world quiet for now. They can't make a big play until they feel that the national political will is ready to be moved in that direction. That preparation work is up to us, and to the mid-level pols.
So, keep up the groundswell, and let's hope that when the mayors and governors and back-seat/middle-seat congressfolk give their statements to the media, that along with the "here's what we're doing" and "here's what you can do" parts, they also have a "Why?" part, definitely an "I'm concerned for what this lack of federal competence means for our community/state/region" part, and maybe even an "I'm angry and I want action" moment as well.
Picture a pyramid. The people at the point can't take action until the base is wide enough and the middle has followed. Keep making the base bigger, and start trying to get the middle to follow -- that's our tasks for the next few weeks.