Joe Gandelman: Sandy and America’s political winds
Everyone expected a big wind towards the end of October. But it was expected it would be from the media, talk show hosts, blogosphere and politicians, building in a crescendo that’d end on Election Day. That wind did arrive — in gale force — but what no one expected was that Mother Nature would also chime in by sending her offspring Hurricane Sandy.
It seems so symbolic ...
Superstorm Sandy’s heartbreak is still being tabulated. At least 33 U.S. deaths, on top of the 67 killed in the Caribbean ... Millions of Americans without electricity ... More than 16,000 flights cancelled ... flooding along the glorious Jersey Shore ... New York City transportation including subway and buses shut down ... whopping losses to the economy due to storm damage and lost workdays.
And on top of it all, some have argued in this close election that we really don’t need that mean, old federal government. Turns out we do during storms. As Texas Gov. Rick Perry once said: “Oops.”
Hurricanes don’t simply appear out of nowhere. They are born when warm seawaters propel heat and moisture high into the air and the resulting sea evaporation moisture in the atmosphere combines with heat, energy and a big wind pattern.
Sort of like the political storms and political trends we’ve seen in our politics over the past two years.
There was the Tea Party political storm. The Tea Party was founded by small-government libertarians and serious Republican conservatives who blasted President Barack Obama, former President George Bush and the GOP establishment. But the Tea Party winds were harnessed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and the Republican Party, which turned it into a partisan appendage. It has slightly receded but is that due to waning influence or regrouping to return stronger in 2013?
There is the Political Truth Storm thrusting America into an era where truth is seemingly irrelevant. Romney has had more positions than the Kama Sutra and the erotic statues of Khajuraho combined. He has created a truly new template for candidates to virtually overnight discard and deny previously embraced tenets — without any political or substantive media consequences.
Even worse: the Romney campaign is almost gleefully running a Jeep-will-export-jobs-to-China in Ohio that wide variety of journalists from all political persuasions note is patently false.
Writes the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent: “The move seems to confirm that the Romney campaign is making the Jeep-to-China falsehood central to its final push to turn things around in the state. The Romney campaign has explicitly said in the past that it will not let fact checking constrain its messaging, so perhaps it’s not surprising that it appears to be expanding an ad campaign based on a claim that has been widely pilloried by fact checkers.”
If Romney loses it will indicate being truthful counts for something. If he wins not having any consequences for stunningly swift position changes and ads widely documented to be false, then it will set the bar yet lower in for all future candidates.
As this storm over whether truth matters rages, the question is whether in American politics all that’s needed now to instantaneously recreate reality out of falsehood, is for someone whose pants are on fire to repeat a political mantra or to insist that a position that existed never existed. Uttering the words magically makes it so.
Meanwhile, pick your favorite pundit according to your bias who today states with certainty who’ll win and why. Pundits self-assuredly project who’ll win (while some partisan bloggers already know). Much of 21st century political debate consists of new and old media pundits name calling, and trying to discredit or denigrate those who dare see things differently. Some political websites have suffered massive Denial of Service attacks that seem to be politically inspired.
When the votes are counted on election day we’ll see which of the windbags Americans listened to, watched, heard and read during this political season actually lived up to their self-assured, advance hype. Did they prove to be big, accurate thundering pundits that took the political prediction biz by storm — or, in the end, merely noisy, inconsequential little drips?
The big difference between them and hurricanes? At least hurricanes quickly go away.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.