“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”–Jesus of Nazareth, Sermon on the Mount c. 30 AD
This week there has been a great deal of analysis about whether Hurricane Sandy would affect the election. That analysis was interesting enough, but what I’m more concerned about is what the hurricane will reveal about us. The question of electoral impact is subordinate to the question of culture. If the storm moves us closer to a reelect scenario, than this reveals something about the character of (at least) that segment of the nation which is changeable enough to change opinions at this late date; it reveals whom we trust. Our reaction to disaster reveals whom we trust.
According to Intrade, the political futures market, as of this writing, over the past three days the probability of reelecting Obama has gone from 62% to 68%. That is a dramatic increase. Today’s Marist Poll shows Obama slightly ahead in battleground states. The RealClearPolitics averages seem to show a slight tilt towards Obama, depending upon which day one chooses as the baseline. This is tentative evidence that Sandy helped Obama, which more deeply means that this is tentative evidence that when disasters come, our politics tend to shift towards statism.
Notice that I did not say that our politics shift ‘left’, but rather towards statism. When those awful lunatics flew jet planes into the World Trade Center, our political mood shifted towards the security state. For good or for ill, understandably or not, we waged wars on two countries in response to this; we passed a landmark Patriot Act which rebalanced the relationship between surveillance and personal privacy; we nationalized airport security. All of this was, in some sense, a move rightward, and all of it strengthened the state. When Hurricane Katrina came we quickly embraced a massive federal rebuilding program. We engaged in national handwringing about income inequality and institutionalized racism. In other words, we got ourselves just a little more prepared to elect Barack Obama.
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