As snowstorm Nemo blankets a good part of the northeastern United States this weekend politicians have a chance
to look good to their electorate, or maybe not so good. Chances are the leaders will know exactly what to do to please the people, given that Hurricane Sandy is still causing flashbacks for many politicians who perhaps didn’t get it quite right the first time around.
Voters will be more scrutinizing however concerning how well their leaders handle this storm.
“Citizens rightly count public safety as the singular core function of government, especially and particularly with expected events, and acutely a local/state responsibility,” said Republican strategist Mary Matalin. “There will be a greater expectation for effective blizzard response than the Sandy response, as it is neither unique or a surprise event, even if it is of a magnitude; accordingly, there will be greater punishment for failure to swiftly and efficiently dig out.”
George W. Bush suffered a severe political blow for his seemingly cold and unconcerned response to Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst storms in US history. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, on the other hand, played commander-in-control to the hilt before, during and after Sandy did her worst.
“For executive politicians — the president and governors in the case of truly massive crises, like Katrina and Sandy, and mayors for disruptive events of any size — there’s no more important test of competence in voters’ minds,” said Democratic political planner Jonathan Prince. “There’s obviously a huge range of opinion when it comes to the size and role of government in America, but the one expectation people from the tea party to the socialist party share is effective disaster response. If elected leaders can’t handle that, voters are apt to write them off pretty darn quick.”
Newark Mayor Cory Booker is a world-class tweeter, and Nemo has given him the opportunity to really shine, sending out close to 50 tweets just on Friday connected to the Nemo blizzard. Most of the tweets are direct responses to the worries of residents.
“Visiting w/truck drivers & surveying roads,” he posted. “Conditions will deteriorate as day continues. Please prepare to stay in for storm.” Once again Booker will be personally helping his constituents/neighbors to shovel out after the storm passes through. “I hope all who are able lend a hand tomorrow,” he tweeted.
Savvy politicians can use ‘weather events’ to improve their image and further their political careers.
Governor Jeb Bush “not only handled Florida’s (seemingly endless) series of hurricanes, but also built a management culture in the government that got results for affected areas and people,” Florida-based GOP strategist Rick Wilson said. “Giuliani had the same kind of hands-on, make-the-snowplows roll effectiveness. They engaged the problem, but had also built the capacity to make government work under times of stress.”
Poor handling of the crisis however can have adverse political effects:
“Attention, presence, and focus on solving immediate action items in a weather-driven crisis are memorable,” said Wilson. “Failure to lead, failure to communicate and failure to act can leave a lasting political stain.”