There is a proverb that I want to start this column on: It is about disaster. When disaster strikes, people chip in to help. When politicians help, disaster strikes again. Therefore, people go first over politics.
No one really thought that we would have a storm that was as similar as the one seen in a Hollywood film, such as “The Day After Tomorrow,” filmed in 2004 and depicts a fictitious scene where the northern hemisphere of the world witnesses another Ice Age, as a result of a combination of a super hurricane, snowstorm and cold fronts. The storm closest to what was filmed was Hurricane Katrina, which turned New Orleans into a bowl of stew and the coastal areas into a scene resembling Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Superstorm Sandy may not have matched the storm in the film, but the combination of a hurricane from the south, a snowstorm from the west and the Arctic front from the north bore down on the eastern seaboard, dropping 3-4 feet of snow in the mountains, producing record-breaking waves in New York City that flooded most of the city, and turning many coastal areas into islands of destroyed houses surrounded by water. While 31 people in North America were killed by this storm (as of this entry) the storm will surely set records in terms of economic losses, while at the same time, it will take months for people to return to normal.
The disaster caused many delays and postponements throughout the area. Wall Street was closed for two consecutive days, the first since 1888, even though the terrorist attacks on 11 September, 2001 resulted in the closure of Wall Street for four days. And while New York City is still preparing its city marathon, one should ask if it is appropriate to delay the presidential elections, scheduled for 6 November but coming up fast. Insane and absurd? Not quite so. Other countries throughout the world have witnessed elections that were delayed by months, more because of political reasons than because of a weather disaster like this. Tunisia delayed their first democratic presidential elections since the fall of their dictator in the Arab Spring of 2011. The elections were held in October last year instead of July due to concerns with developing the political system and parties. Iraqi elections were delayed due laws being debated in 2009. Nigerian elections were delayed by two days last year due to lack of organization. In the United States, there has never been a delay in elections for any reason. Yet it is possible that the president could use his executive powers to enforce that measure, but only in disasters of catastrophic proportions, such as a nuclear war.
Given the degree of disaster Sandy provided to the people in the northeast, it would be unlikely that such a delay would take place. The area is densely populated, people could go to the polls by foot and the polls are more accessible than in rural areas. Yet eight million people are still without power, and as mentioned in an article provided by sister column, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, the infrastructure is crippled thanks to downed trees and power lines on train tracks and streets, bridges washed away by flooding and areas that are still underwater. The two presidential candidates have delayed their campaigning, although they have traded jabs at how the federal government should be involved in disaster relief. Many Americans are not too keen to vote right now, for if they are not directly affected by the disaster, they know many people who are affected and are finding ways to help them. President Obama and other politicians have announced that public safety goes first before the elections. Public safety not only includes getting people to safety, but it also means helping them rebuild, no matter how long it takes for the job to be done, so that there is a functioning, coherent and safe community. While the people affected by the storm are digging their way out of the rubble, other Americans living outside the disaster area are still undecided about who to vote for, for there are many issues at stake, from environmental policies, to education; health care to infrastructure- you name it, they are there, and there has not been much effort on the part of both Obama and Romney to address these themes and make the promises that will satisfy the Americans and others abroad.
While we have never been in any nuclear war (and will most unlikely have one), the disaster we see in the pictures, caused by the Superstorm can be compared to any town being destroyed through war. Many people are not ready to vote as they are putting their lives back together. And there are so many loopholes open that could result in the elections going wrong, as we saw in 2000 between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Therefore, if I was Barack Obama, I would strongly consider delaying the elections by up to two months to allow people a chance to pick up the pieces first before going to the polls. It will buy the president and Mitt Romney time to do any last minute campaigning to win the final votes. And lastly, it will buy us more time to consider the issues that will tip our vote in favor of one or another. A January election and an inauguration in March will be most unprecedented, but it makes sense, given the situation America is in right now. To proceed as scheduled on 6 November, next Tuesday, given the current circumstances would be inappropriate and it could cost Obama the presidency if he stays the course.
Information about Superstorm Sandy and ways to donate can be found here through the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles: