What I’ve learned from the 2012 Election and Its Convergence with Hurricane Sandy

Republican vs. Democrat

People who tend to vote Republican or Democrat, if gotten into a respectful exchange, will admit their frustration with leaders on both sides and the government in general. Republicans may believe the quality of candidates is pretty close to the same, but they prefer the one promising to do less via government. They trust individuals and business as more efficient. Democrats believe government defends people, rather than special interests (aka, corporate interests).

People who identify as Republican have certain core aggravations with government programs that seem to reward what feels to them like laziness, e.g., “entitlements,” which even by the name sound unearned; and debt spending, which seems to them irresponsible.

Republicans are obstinant about notions of government size, spending and efficiency that do not stand up to the historical statistics, which show deficits, taxes, and efficiency improvements as better under Democratic Administrations. Assuming that the Republican arguments are not trying to mislead based on pure deception, there must be something that is not being well-enough defined in the Republican argument.

Democrats are not doing a good job at convincing the public that they are pro-business, pro-efficient government, and pro-fiscal responsibility. Democrats are not especially liberal — just ask any Green Party member or other liberal.

Democrats don’t understand Republicans’ refusals to honor individual rights over group conformity; Republicans don’t understand that Democrats don’t have the same ideas of what the American “group” is. Jonathan Heidt has done psychological research on this issue, which he discusses in the light of morality and culture, here: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/haidt08/haidt08_index.html. Not understanding this discrepancy in how morals work leads to a lot of anger and astonishment and makes many of us think members of the other party are somehow not playing with a full deck.

Republicans claim they can break Congressional gridlock. So do Democrats. Barack Obama tried. He was stonewalled (but still accompished a lot). The past several presidents have been expanding the powers of the Presidency, which is of questionable value to the country, but helps the President trump our Senators and Congresspersons. I have listened to old school Congresspersons, such as Bill Bradley, talk about the compromises that they used to expect to make to accomplish the work of governing. For example, Richard Nixon signed a bill creating the EPA; Bill Clinton restricted welfare rules. The trend is toward gridlock. This is a terrible situation that wastes resources and brings voters to despair.

The Influence of Sandy on these Republican/Democrat Observations
Hurricane Sandy required a response that was big and coordinated. Individuals who tried to help often found their services were unneeded, in the wrong place, or uncoordinated. For example, a call for 300 hard boiled eggs for a senior refugee center in Park Slope brought a response of 3000 eggs. My anecdotal reports are of people trying to volunteer and getting turned away. Mitt Romney advocated canned food donations; FEMA, the Red Cross, etc. said that kind of response is more trouble than it’s worth.

There is no coordinated way for nongovernmental entities to first respond to disasters of this magnitude, except for authorities to contract it, which is how things now work.

The impulse for people to help is strong; people care about community and are compassionate when hardship occurs.

Republicans draw a distinction between disaster such as hurricanes and more chronic hardship and community based on criteria of worthiness and what could be called “tribe” while Democrats do not. This usually appears as pointing out people who “game” the system or never “try” to get off welfare. In fact, since the Clinton presidency, you cannot stay on Welfare indefinitely. Also, gaming a system does not necessarily mean the system is “wrong,” it may just need fixing, such as closing loopholes.

This episode has demonstrated, in my opinion, that government has important roles in the nation, and that belief that Federal Government should relinquish functions to individuals, business, or States, are unrealistic.

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