During the 2012 presidential race, newspapers, news channels and political radio jocks have painted President Obama and Mitt Romney into two corners: big government and small government, respectively. Now, suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, New York City desperately needs help from FEMA, a government agency, which Romney and running mate Paul Ryan pledged to cut — and Republicans are scrambling to express how their “small government” view makes sense in this context. Rolling Stone digs into whether the conversation of big versus small government ever held any water, anyway.
The storm is also purportedly casting in a kinder light Obama’s general attitude toward government, until now often described as an electoral weakness. Pre-Sandy, pundits usually raked the president over the coals for openly embracing the role of government in society during a time when anti-government sentiment is at an all-time high. In the first debate, for instance, his answer to a question about his view of the role of government was considered a dud:
I also believe that government has the capacity — the federal government has the capacity to help open up opportunity and create ladders of opportunity and to create frameworks where the American people can succeed.
It’s this kind of language that’s allowed opponents of Obama to cast him as the “redistributionist-in-Chief”: a man who openly believes that government can help provide “ladders of opportunity.” That language is particularly annoying to pure free-market ideologues, who have often claimed the “ladders of opportunity” phrase for themselves, but only in the context of their being provided by the private sector.
Anyway, enter Hurricane Sandy. Suddenly, it seems that most of the mainstream press – as if speaking through one voice – has finally decided that the storm has settled the big-government-versus-small-government argument, with Obama coming out the clear winner …
The point is that the storm has become a flash-point for a new media meme: Obama is for big government (which is suddenly a good thing), Romney is for small government (and wants to take rafts and blankets away from flood victims), and goodness gracious, aren’t we lucky that we got to see such a clear, real-world demonstration of the important philosophical differences between these two candidates in the week before the election.