Elizabeth Mueller ’13
With the finish line of the election race in sight, it is easy to get consumed in poll numbers, last-minute commercials, and public statements without stepping back to look at the bigger picture: what is best for our country? Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a tragedy to remind ourselves that what is most important is to work together for the greater good. This was the only positive aspect of Hurricane Sandy’s touchdown on the East Coast this past week: a gleam of bipartisanship amidst the incredible wreckage.
President Obama arrived in New Jersey on Wednesday to survey the damage done by the hurricane and to show support for the hard work put forth by the state’s legislature and FEMA officials. After spending the day together on the ravaged boardwalks of New Jersey’s famous shoreline and meeting with local families affected by the storm’s damage, an “unlikely pair” formed through the cooperation of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and President Obama. Despite Gov. Christie’s role as a principal campaigner for Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, the New Jersey leader was impressed and touched by the way the President reached out to the citizens of Christie’s beloved state. After speaking with a citizen concerned by the fact that FEMA had previously failed to help his neighborhood in the past, Gov. Christie said with confidence, “Don’t you worry pal, I will be with the president this afternoon.” Christie commended Obama’s quick reaction to the hurricane and only had effusive praise for the president in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. President Obama was equally gracious in thanking Christie for being such a support to New Jersey, remarking that “I want to just let you know that your governor is working overtime to make sure that as soon as possible, everybody can get back to normal.”
It is this breach of party boundaries, an extension of friendship in the name of what is right, that gives me hope for our political system. Both the president and Gov. Christie were able to put aside their differences in political ideology and come to the aid of people who needed support, who needed to know that their elected officials are looking out for them. It is refreshing to see that after all of the campaigning and political strategy, politicians are still normal people who want to make a difference in their community and in their nation. Unfortunately, it took a natural disaster and enormous devastation to remind us of this. Obama has also reminded the American public that he still stands for hope, while Christie has once again demonstrated his bipartisan efforts, a trait which he is known for in the Garden State. This has allowed rumors to resurface about a possible presidential campaign for Christie in the future, but it is obvious that the governor has his eyes on New Jersey right now. When asked about the current election on “Fox and Friends,” he remarked, “I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested.” He added, “If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me.”
As much as I like to see such encouraging bipartisanship, it is impossible to ignore the effects of the Hurricane on the current election given that it is such an extremely close race. The newest Washington Post-ABC tracking poll shows the candidates neck-and-neck, never straying farther than one percentage point from each other. For last minute, undecided voters in swing states, Obama’s performance in New Jersey along with his general handling of the recent natural disaster could inspire them to vote in his favor. The same poll shows that 79% of likely voters say the president response to Hurricane Sandy was “excellent” or “good,” regardless of party affiliation.
The hurricane was not such an advantage for Governor Romney, particularly in light of continued questions regarding his position of the federal government’s role in emergency response and the controversy over the continued financing of FEMA that have surfaced on the campaign trail. The aforementioned poll showed less favorable results for Romney in addressing the crisis, but to see if Hurricane Sandy had any significant effect on politics we will have to wait until next Tuesday when the race ends.