Cherry Bream, Flickr, under Share-Alike License


Sandy and the White House: A Report from New York

From Daniel Meeter (substituting for Jason Lief)

On Tuesday, November 6, the people of the United States elected Barack Obama for a second term as President. For many of us this election had two stories — the election happened in the aftermath of Super-storm Sandy. Residents of New York and New Jersey and the surrounding region had to struggle to vote like in some undeveloped country. People were voting in tents set up with generators. People were voting in the backs of National Guard trucks. My wife and I live in Brooklyn, the largest and most populous borough of New York City, and it took us two hours to drive and walk the two miles to cast our vote. Most of us have been far more focused on living through the aftermath than on national politics. I spent the week after Election Day organizing volunteers to deliver food and flashlights and blankets to the victims of Sandy still without hydro or living in local shelters.

The two stories came together for the whole country with the visit of President Obama to New Jersey to survey the damage and destruction, not as a candidate, but the Head of State. His host was Governor Chris Christie, who had nominated Mitt Romney at the Republican convention. We watched the two of them, side by side, getting along, serving the afflicted and storm-tossed with power and compassion. Obama won a point for the federal government as a common good, and Christie did not deny it.

Romney lost and Christie won. I mean in terms of the Republican Party. Romney represented the GOP as a sort of Christian heritage party, with Mormons now included among the Christians. The Party’s platform was the public enforcement of personal moralities based on revealed religion, together with that unique American mythology of revolution, liberty, violence, race, and guns. But Christie represents the old pragmatic GOP, a progres­sive conservative party, anti-revolutionary, pro-federal government, and strong in favor of civil rights, the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Eisen­hower. The Republican Party will have to choose to be what Romney lost or rather what Christie won.

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