The enormity of last week's super-storm is just beginning to sink into political consciousness. Hurricane Sandy should transform what Americans expect from their government, and give the party of government activism new force. As soon as the election is behind us, the country faces a major struggle over what the super-storm portends and requires. But that struggle will be as much within the Democratic Party as between Democrats and the right, because of the deadweight of austerity politics. If the fix is in for a budget deal that precludes government's ability to spend serious money on climate remediation, flood protection, and a shift to a non-carbon economy, the United States of America is just plain screwed. Few presidents get a do over. Let's see whether Obama grasps the challenge and the possibilities.
To repair its economy, the U.S. urgently needs finely-tuned macroeconomic policies and institutional changes. For this challenge, a rational voter would not rely on the Republican pseudoconservative political stance that, after helping to bring about the Great Recession, has foundered in self-contradiction.
The polarized politics of our time, joined with an appetite for pigeonholing, exert pressure on everyone to categorize themselves. Sometimes people declare themselves for "isms" that they have not plumbed. An example in point is conservatism. The politicians who now travel under the banner of "conservatism" happen to espouse views and methods that are incompatible with the philosophy bearing that name. Meanwhile members of the opposing political party have imbibed a dose of the wisdom conveyed by conservatism. This includes a cautious disposition to welcome expert reasoning about economic policy, reasoning of the sort desperately needed for recovery. When the details of this are made clear, so are voters' alternatives in the forthcoming election.
Both conservatism and liberalism are built on moral insights of one kind or another, and no one rational can fail to see that moral flaws like greed and dishonesty exist all along the political spectrum. The problem is that on the right, irrationality and opposition to moral values are not merely personal flaws. They are policy.