Superstorm demolished hard right ideology, tested character and restored faith in government as an instrument for public good...
By Ernest A. Canning on 11/11/2012, 1:13pm PT  

Amidst disaster, a silver lining?

Hurricane Sandy demolished the policies of individual greed that found their most absurd application in Mitt Romney's prior proposal to privatize disaster relief. The super storm tested the inner resolve and character of a Republican governor, who was forced to choose between the doctrinaire insanity required by his dirty energy billionaire benefactors and responsible governance that, of necessity, includes coordination of critical disaster relief between federal, state and local agencies.

If there's a silver lining to be found in the death and devastation, it exists in how disaster can bring out the best in individuals operating together as a community and in the public function of government of, by and for the people...

Sandy demolishes policies of individual greed

Hurricane Sandy entailed more than its wide swath of physical destruction. It demolished what Kevin Phillips, in Wealth and Democracy, described as a "vice-into-virtue theology" that extolls individual greed and rejects the very existence of a res publica --- the concept that what a community holds in common is of far greater societal value than the individual selfishness embodied in the never-ending, lopsided accumulation of wealth by the privileged few.

The greed embodied in the hard right's "vice-into-virtue theology" has been applied through privatization --- the conversion of formerly public functions into profit centers for private enterprise --- a concept so extreme that, at CNN's 'Tea Party' Presidential Primary Debate, Mitt Romney (R-MA) went so far as to not only suggest eliminating the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) but went so far as to suggest that its critical disaster relief function be privatized.

Sandy so exposed the absurdity of privatized disaster relief that the mendacious Republican Presidential candidate evaded reporters and the issue even as he shamelessly sought to exploit the disaster via a staged photo op that included fake food donations.

Chris Christie's inner resolve

"These are times that try men's souls." - Thomas Paine

The climate-science denying, oil industry oligarch, David Koch, did not describe Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) as his "kind of guy" because Christie was a man of the people. Christie served as the keynote speaker at the 2011 Koch Brothers summer seminar as well as the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention precisely because he was an unapologetic spokesperson for the plutocracy and its radical union-busting and privatizating agenda --- a governor who would adopt, word-for-word, bills drafted by the billionaire-funded, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

So when Sandy slammed into the Jersey shores and the President called to swiftly offer cutting through the red tape to insure prompt assistance from FEMA and other federal agencies, Christie had a very significant decision to make. He could responsibly step forward on behalf of the citizens of the Garden State or he could abide by the ideological dictates of his plutocratic benefactors and be reduced to the same feckless sycophant that his Party's standard bearer proved to be when Romney sought to exploit disaster via his fake food donation publicity stunt.

Judging from his response to Steve Doocy of Fox "News", as well as his actions and the praise he and the President extended one another, this was not as difficult a decision as one might otherwise expect. Specifically, when asked if Romney might come to New Jersey so the two could "tour the damage" together, the New Jersey Republican Governor responded:

I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested...I have a job to do. I’ve got 2.4 million people out of power. I’ve got devastation on the shore. I’ve got floods in the northern part of my state. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me.

The Orwellian hard-right ideology simply gave way to a profound reality, revealing, in Christie, a level of character that few knew was there.

Sandy's silver lining

As we recently observed, the problem with even honestly held Libertarian philosophy can be found in its exclusive focus on governmental threats to liberty --- a focus that ignores the omnipotent power of private corporations. An exclusive focus on individual liberty sans civic responsibility is destructive of community, an equitable economy and a sustainable environment. The narrow focus upon individual liberty within the confines of "market fundamentalism" amounts to a form of political tunnel vision that ignores the basic obligations we owe to one another and to our planet whose ecological balance is vital to the very survival of our species.

It is probably too much to expect that, as a result of Superstorm Sandy, Gov. Christie will experience an epiphany; that he, like David Brock, will come to realize that he has been Blinded by the Right.

But, with all its devastation, Sandy, like Katrina before it, offers a silver lining in the form of a teachable moment. Government, if (small "d") democratically controlled and constricted by transparency and the rule of law, can fulfill the role envisioned by the U.S. Constitution as an instrument that promotes the general welfare and insures domestic tranquility.

Separated from the corrupting influence of the plutocracy's wealth and ideology, the essential cooperation we see in response to Sandy can and must be extended to dealing with global climate change and to insuring equal justice under law, a national healthcare system, an end to wars of aggression, educational opportunities, a fair and just economy that guarantees a living wage and a host of other societal problems that fall within the public sphere and for which there is no place for private parasites.

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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing.

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