It’s fair to say that the USA has had an astonishing week. On the day of the 2012 Presidential Elections, the political storm we were all expecting to focus on has largely been overshadowed by the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. The ‘superstorm’ has rightly dominated news coverage, leaving a death toll of over 100 across the USA and causing economic losses which could reach $50 billion.
Besides the many costs of Sandy, the thing that caught my eye among the news coverage was the reaction of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Ever doubted that a week is a long time in politics? Exhibit A is here: from likening President Obama to a man ‘groping for the lightswitch of leadership in a darkened room’, Christie has become outspoken in his praise of Obama’s response to the crisis. While Christie has stopped short of promising Obama his vote, New York City’s mayor Michael Bloomberg has done just that, endorsing the incumbent President for his stance on climate change. Timed just before the USA goes to the polls, these comments are remarkable.
Judging by how quickly hashtag #bipartisanshipatlast emerged on Twitter, collaborative working is a popular style in a crisis situation. The bipartisan leadership emerging in New Jersey demonstrates that it is possible for ideologically opposed parties to find common ground, and that finding that common ground is largely a question of perspective. Before Sandy, the Republicans and Democrats were engaged in showing how different they were from each other, each trying to score points at the expense of the other. In New Jersey at least, the aftermath of Sandy changed that focus. Dealing with the hardship and suffering caused by the hurricane has seemingly shifted perspectives on priorities, from campaigning and politicking to finding ways of helping those who have lost loved ones, homes, power, and hope.
It goes without saying that the people affected are in my thoughts, and I hope that the relief effort reaches those who so badly need assistance. Will Hurricane Sandy be the ‘storm that sank Mitt Romney’ as some people have suggested? November 7th will tell. Maybe a more optimistic message to take from the “Frankenstorm” is one of frank talking –honesty about our needs, a willingness to work beyond our comfort zone, and a strong commitment to achieving a goal.