The Race: Will Frankenstorm vote Republican? - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

The Race: Will Frankenstorm vote Republican?

The question sounds ridiculous but it is a surprisingly substantive one: Major national disasters or exceptional storms often cause profound and lasting changes to political conditions. And in this case the most destructive and widespread super-hurricane in American history is directly hammering 50 million people less than a week before they go to the polls to decide one of the most closely-fought presidential elections of modern times.

Major weather disasters usually favor the Democrats because at such times, people forget their usual complaints about the government (taxes, bureaucratic pains in the neck and blaming it for everything). Instead, even Ayn Rand-loving libertarian crackpots suddenly start clamoring for as many federal rescue agencies and rebuilding dollars as they can get.

The last major hurricane disaster we had – when Katrina burst the levees of the Mississippi River and drowned the city of New Orleans seven years ago – definitely voted Democrat.

Katrina actually showed Democrats show up in the time of need. (Photo from Wikipedia Commons)

A year before Katrina, incumbent President George W. Bush won more national votes than any previous American ever in his clear-cut triumph over Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. The year after Katrina, Bush lost control of the Republican House and Senate he had enjoyed for the previous six years in one of the biggest mid-term defeats ever recorded. His lackadaisical and bungled response to Katrina made the difference.

Bush’s successor,  President Barack Obama got egg on his face when he responded with similar complacency, slowness and reluctance to the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. The GOP was able to come storming back and retake the House of Representatives less than seven months later. The main reason for that was certainly the dismal economic recovery picture at the time. However, the Gulf disaster – which in fact has not proved remotely apocalyptic as was widely believed at the time – was also a major cause.

President Obama certainly learned that lesson: Unlike Bush before Katrina hit, his warning to the American public before Hurricane Sandy made landfall was a model of level-headedness, good sense and steady nerves – In short everything presidential leadership should be in times like this.

However, apart from the sheer scale of Frankenstorm Sandy, its unprecedented closeness to the national vote next Tuesday makes it an enormous electoral wild card.

The Hurricane looks very likely to vote Republican: The Mid-Atlantic East Coast states it is hammering are the core of national Democratic Party support. The Democrats have been relying upon an exceptionally high turn-out of working class, African-American and Hispanic voters and have organized well for it. If the election goes ahead on schedule next Tuesday, however, people without their own cars, the elderly and the poor, will be much less likely to have the ability to actually make it to the voting booths in the hurricane-hit states.

Also, urban areas actually on the coast will be most in line for the impact, most of all New York City and its surrounding region. Major flooding and communications disruptions could dramatically depress their overwhelmingly Democratic voters. This could cost the Dems North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and even New York State if New York City is hit by my major tidal surges as heavily as is feared.

Virginia, where Romney and Obama are so closely tied that the toss of a cent might make the difference between them, could also tilt Republican if the Frankenstorm hits the Route 66 Corridor west of Washington, DC hard, but leaves the Republican- leaning south and west of the state alone.

On the other hand, if the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies respond well to the Frankenstorm, as they currently look like doing, and if the President remains fully engaged in the crisis and continues to appear authoritative, commanding and in control, then he could enjoy a decisive national last-minute surge.

If he is sensible, Romney will not dare to critique the president over the crisis unless the federal response goes catastrophically wrong – otherwise he will come across, as he did when criticizing Britain’s preparations for an exceptionally successful Summer Olympic Games, as a pompous, arrogant know-nothing fool. Romney simply needs to hunker down for the next week like at least 50 million Americans and support the president and the national response and rescue efforts.

Looks like Frankenstorm is a Republican. (Poynter.org)

FEMA’s performance after Katrina was national fiasco and disgrace, and that was no accident: George W. Bush and his administration despised the agency and seem to have half-believed the ridiculous conspiracy theory that it was all an evil plot by international bankers and Bill Clinton to steal American liberties.

Bush let Michael Brown, a ludicrous clown who faked his own resume, to run FEMA into the ground long before Katrina hit. Millions of Americans paid hard for their feckless stupidity.

By contrast William Craig Fugate, the agency’s current director, is an experienced disaster response manager. No one knows how anyone responds to anything until the chips are down, but Fugate so far looks a good choice to play point man on the crisis.

Will Frankenstorm vote Republican? It looks like it might, but maybe not. One thing’s for sure – Frankenstorm Sandy will not be politically neutral. One way or another it will vote – and vote big.

Please take our presidential poll on the right side of the homepage.  You might be surprised who is winning.


About the author

Martin Sieff

Martin Sieff is an editor at Sputnik, the Russian-owned news organization. He is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East (2008), Gathering Storm (2014) and Cycles of Change: The Three Great Eras of American History and the Coming Crisis that will Lead to the Fourth (2014). Follow Martin on: @MartinSieff Contact the author.
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