Sandy and the Vote
The very things forbidden to “play politics” with, natural disasters, attacks on the
homeland, the murder of diplomats left exposed to militant assaults, in fact are just
the opposite, bloated lode stones of politics just waiting to happen.
In the thickest part of the horrors visited upon New Jersey, October 30, during the
Chris Christie 72 hour marathon, an off-camera journalist asked about reports that the
GOP nominee might visit New Jersey to tour damage left in the wake of Sandy.
Christie snapped back in his signature temper, "I have no idea nor am I the least bit
concerned or interested... I've got 2.4 million people out of power. I've got
devastation on the shore. I've got floods in the northern part of my state. If you think
right now I give a damn about presidential politics then you don't know me."
Fair enough. I saw that with my own eyes, snapped my head up from half paying
attention. A moment. It looked real to me. That's not playing politics. That is politics.
Peggy Noonan, an important political voice, ever the lady yet fist in glove, did ALL
her election day politicking in the damp wreckage of Sandy's wet and dark. Her
analysis of the big ticket endorsers (Christie, Bloomberg, and Cuomo) was done
entirely in the afterglow of assessing their Sandy performance. “Gov. Chris Christie of
New Jersey,” oozed Noonan “was his usual compelling self... This is a man knows a
levee from a berm.” Yes? And? She goes on immediately to analyze “his hearty
embrace of President Obama just days before the election?” Noonan's conclusion?
“Keep your friends close and your president closer.“ And what thinks Ms. Noonan of
Mayor Small Soda leading New Yorkers next door? “New York's mayor, Mike
Bloomberg,” she says, “was sterling—a solid, unruffled giver of information.” But the
mayor had not had his bizarre epiphany at the time of her writing. Though too late
to appear in Ms. Noonan's important piece How Far Obama Has Fallen, the Mayor
did come to a decision. How? Raymond Hernandez reports “Mayor Michael R.
Bloomberg said Thursday that Hurricane Sandy had reshaped his thinking about the
presidential campaign and that as a result, he was endorsing President Obama.”
Huh? We all know that New York City republicans are democrats. That's fine. I've no
problem with political sleight of hand. The good mayor can place his bets wherever
he likes. But he's endorsing Obama because Sandy changed his mind about global
warming? Only the enduring tragedy and great burdens still suffered by Sandy
victims prevent me from parodying this plain folly any further. At any rate, it should be
quite clear that the ban on “playing politics” with natural disasters is quite truly
Sandy and the Vote, by Frank Kaufmann, 11/02/12 page 1
Politicians doing and saying silly things is not news anyway.
But there is a deeply serious, political matter related to Sandy. One that is sobering,
and which requires our determined, collective resolve to prepare for seriously.
We know that Presidential elections are times that threaten the cohesion of our
national family. Much is at stake. Even in the best and most ideal voting conditions,
we are in danger to fall into real tests of our process and our political stability.
But we do not have ideal voting conditions. Sandy has shredded our chances for
even OK voting conditions. CNN's Allison Brennan opens her important report on
these matters this way, “When Sandy slammed into the East Coast on Monday, it set
into motion a tight time line for election officials: one week to ensure that voters in
states from Virginia to New Hampshire would be able cast their ballots on Election
Her careful and extensive analysis is a must read, showing that “power outages,
flooding and snow left in the storm's wake could make [voting] impossible for voters in
some of the hardest-hit states.
“Fire stations, schools, community centers and other venues were flooded or
“In other polling spots … election officials are gambling that power will be restored
It is beyond the purview of this brief commentary to cover the systematically laid-out
implications, legal precedents, and near sure impact of Sandy's destruction will have
during this deadly serious, upcoming election.
Devoted citizens whose patriotism exceeds and is more exquisite than common
partisan obsessions need to study and review of the range of eventualities Sandy's
rage and devastation have put before us in terms of election day voting.
One need think back only as recently as the Bush-Gore elections of 2000 to see
horrible cracks of intransigence and division, not healed even to this day. I recall
looking in horror to see live on my television a bunch of Florida officials running into a
room with boxes of ballots, and locking themselves in as an angry mob of opposite
side officials stood pounding and screaming outside the locked door. The United
States was mocked then as countries like Argentina and Iran offered to send monitors
to help protect the US voting process.
Sandy and the Vote, by Frank Kaufmann, 11/02/12 page 2
With elections just days away and huge numbers of voters and areas still fully disabled
under logistical nightmares, power outages, blocked roads and flooding, we sit on
the brink of political disorder that could rival Sandy's own destructive powers.
As our good officials braced and prepared with such focus and seriousness counting
down the hours to Sandy's landfall, their efforts and their leadership, as well as our
collective embrace of our own responsibility, similarly should begin immediately with
perhaps greater seriousness as we face the strong possibility of a different kind of
storm about to wreak havoc on our body politic in only a matter of days.
Sandy and the Vote, by Frank Kaufmann, 11/02/12 page 3