Thursday, November 1, 2012

Has Hurricane Sandy Stopped Mitt's Momentum?

  First of all, let me say on behalf of the aclp and all our our supporters and followers that our hearts and prayers go out to those who have lost their homes, livelihood, or loved ones from Hurricane Sandy which hit the East Coast, particularly the New Jersey Shoreline and New York City Monday and Tuesday of this week with devastating force.

  Words alone cannot serve to import the extent of utter devastation wreaked upon the residents of those locales by Sandy, as the storm flooded Lower Manhattan and other coastal areas with a "storm surge" of, on average, 12+ feet causing widespread flooding.

  We're talking about urban and suburban areas which have been completely destroyed, whole houses swept away by the deluge with only their foundations, (if that!) left behind, and leaving piles of rubble more akin to what has been seen in the devasating Southern tornadoes in the last couple years rather than a "mere" hurricane.

  The disaster has ground almost all commerce to a standstill, causing that most hardy institutions of our free enterprise system, the New York Stock Exchange, to close on a non-holiday for the first time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks eleven years ago, and leaving rescue crews and the American Red Cross, along with First Responders, attempting to assist burgeoning numbers of suddenly homeless people in gaining basic shelter, food and water, but the situation is desperate. (you can donate to the red cross or Salvation army here).

  Businesses, including most grocery stores, as well as most transportation, including trains and subways, are closed indefinitely, as looting fears abound, although so far, at least, the vast majority of those caught up in this disaster have, from all accounts, handled themselves admirably in incredibly difficult circumstances.  (And just for the record, we are not faulting public authorities at all for the lack of transportation; kinda hard to safely take a train when the train tracks are just ripped out of their moorings from a flood that would Noah a run for his money!)  

  Indeed, to even attempt train travel in this environment, (assuming one could get waterlogged engines and electricity flowing to the subways), would be akin to suicide given that electricity and water don't mix and the almost certain instability of water deluged track!) I could go on, (as I'm sure any of my regular readers would attest, lol), but words alone can't possibly do justice to the sheer scale of this national tragedy... so here are a few pictures culled from the internet just so those of you in the Midwest (like yours truly) or out West can get an idea what we are talking about here... brace yourself, some of it is hard to look at... But for the bold of heart click here, here, or here.

  In sum, and all told we're talking, conservatively, MILLIONS of people losing their homes, jobs, and livelihoods.  Moreover, the storm has resulted in a loss of power for up to six million people, just think, about that, SIX MILLION PEOPLE without the power that so many of us take for granted in our modern industrial nation each and every day, with uncertain prospects for restoration.  Utility company spokesman plan on setting out a plan for restoration of power to millions on Friday, which means, in all likelihood, that the effects of Sandy, including loss of power, will be felt for days, (if not weeks to come!), with months until things can get back to anything resembling "normal."

  Accordingly, this fateful event seems destined to last through the Nov. 6 elections and disrupt the end of what had been a frenetic pace of campaigning for the (still) most powerful office on the face of the earth, the United States Presidency, with both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama taking a few days off from the campaign trail to raise money and goods for those in NY and NJ who have been hit hardest.

  For his part, Mitt Romney didn't hesitate to donate his campaign bus to distributing goods to those in need even prior to the disaster and turned several of his scheduled campaign events post Sandy into events to gather donations of food, clothing, and bottled water to be distributed to those in need.  

  Which brings us to the main point of this post, in the aftermath of Sandy's aftermath; namely, what is the political aftermath of Sandy on the mood (and voting preferences?) of the United States electorate?  More specifically, will Sandy sidetrack Mitt Romney's chances at becoming President, which until now, had seemed more and more likely possible, if not probable? (see our prior post on the electoral college).

  Indeed, so horrific had been the devastation that I don't think, barring a nuclear attack from terrorists in Times Square, (or a rogue nation state, can anyone say "Iran?"), that the damage could have been any worse.  Just think, no food, no water, no sanitation, and no subways or public transportation in a megapolis of millions. (Correction, I have just heard that some busses are now running in NYC again, or at least the ones that can get fuel).  Oh yes, and did I mention no fuel? (excepting the gas stations lucky enough to have electricity to run the pumps, click here to see people lined up as far as the eye can see just to get a few gallons of overpriced gas!).

  But it does seem as if there has been a sudden slowing of momentum of Romney that has revealed itself in polls, which heretofore had been trending Romney's direction following his debate performances but which now, at least according to a clear plurality of pundits, seems to have suddenly leveled off and/or actually reversed in the President's favor, (and this notwithstanding that some pundits such as Karl Rove or Dick Morris are still forecasting rosy scenarios for Romney).

  Indeed, and somewhat as an aside, and depending on one's political perspective, such a natural disaster has raised fears among some that Barack Obama might use just such an event as this natural disaster to postpone, or even, (unconstitutionally I may add), CANCEL the U.S. elections indefinitely.

   While we are not near so paranoid as to really think that will, in fact, happen, (at least at this point), such an extreme outcome need not occur in order for such a crisis to, in the words of the President's former Chief of Staff Rhaam Emanuel, not "go to waste."

  And for his part, whether out of sincerity or sheer political necessity, the President was quick to oblige, spending Tuesday and Wednesday being found in innumerable "photo ops" surveying the damage and looking "presidential" in a way which seemed to elude him in the election debates, (most notably in hard-hit New Jersey with former critic Governor Chris Christie in tow singing the President's praises about how "responsive" and "caring" he has been towards the needs of his state post-Sandy's trauma).  Which leads us to the penultimate question.

   Will all the extra "free" publicity and endless praise by a popular Republican Governor, one of the President's prior most ardent critics, act as a "turning point" in the President's campaign that will aid a more favorable narrative that Obama can, or at least is willing, to be "bi-partisan" and move to the political center in the same way as that which revived Clinton's presidency after the mid-term drubbing he experienced in 1994 when the GOP took over the house for the first time in 40 years and passed Newt Gingrich's publicly popular and well publicized "contract with America?"

   In this regard, it matters not that all available evidence we have indicates that Obama is clearly far more ideological than Bill Clinton, and lacks the same sort of pragmatist streak that, in the final analysis, appears to have been a core part of who Clinton was as a politician; rather, the losses the Democrat party experienced at the hands of tea party forces in 2010 has seemed to only cause President Obama to "double down" in his liberal policies (including many which have gutted popular Clinton signed reforms such as Don't ask Don't tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, and mandatory Welfare work requirements recently eliminated by Executive directive much to the chagrin of conservatives like me).

  "But," you may protest, "surely the people won't be fooled by a momentary appearance of competence and caring on the part of the President in the wake of a still struggling economy and his well documented failure to have instituted policies to turn things around in the past four years in spite of his 2008 promises to do just that?"  Perhaps.

   But, as any master of stagecraft will tell you, what is is not near so important as what appears to be.  And in our national ADD memory in the multimedia age of 30-second-sound-bites we are not at all sure of the overall health, (mental and otherwise) of the American body politic.

   Indeed, as has elsewhere been effectively proven, (including by an unfortunately frank video of Romney pointing out this fact), nearly HALF of the American public now owes its existence and livelihood to government programs that have sapped the initiative and independence of those who now look first to the government than their families, friends and churches to help them in times of great need.

  As such, we are starting to wonder if an overt appeal to individual initiative and free enterprise, core staples of Romney's appeal, can now carry the day, at least after a national disaster that is likely to have rather poignantly reminded folks, "What if that was me and I was reduced to having nothing in a matter of hours?  How would I survive, really?  Maybe I do want a strong government 'safety net' in the mold of European socialist democracies to save me and provide my every need!"

   Of course, such are cruel fantasies which only end in annointed "cream of the crop" political leaders-- no reference to any current leaders ;)--  "skimming the top" of everything, (just like in the old Soviet Union where the party "elite" had access to separate stores and untold luxuries like caviar while the populace starved to death); indeed, history has proven that all such promises of a powerful central authority solving all your problems can only end in upheaval worse than what we see in N.J. and New York right now in the aftermath of Sandy; But alas, uninformed (and hungry!) people have little time for political philosophy and forget such truths all too quickly.

   All of which leads us to muse out loud whether Obama can somehow channel all the photo ops and free publicity as an attentive "problem solver" in the wake of Sandy in a way that could spell real trouble for a challenger that in the best of times-- and until relatively recently and just the last month or so in fact-- has struggled with the President's caricature of him as an elitist hopelessly "out of touch" with the average American voter?

   Combined with the "bite" taken out of a media, which, at least until the Benghazi Libya attacks on the U.S. embassy a couple months ago, had been more recognizable as the President's personal lapdog than the highly esteemed "fourth estate" of government exposing corruption that the American founders envisioned, we are, to put it mildly, concerned.

   Indeed, the disaster coverage that now dominates the evening news undoubtedly has the potential to once again put the ball back in the President's court, in a way ominous for Romney's chances.

  Thus we find ourselves, only five days out from our national election, forced to reassess an electoral map which only a week or so ago we strongly felt favored Mitt Romney.

  Only time will tell if, in fact, our more recent fears have any basis in reality. We hope and pray, that they don't.  JP

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