Disasters Are Political Opportunities

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Jack Brooks once stated that “Every disaster is an opportunity,” and he was absolutely correct. Brooks’ statement especially holds true to politicians. Politicians are in a constant struggle to gain the support of the citizens, and to be successful they need take advantage of every presented opportunity to get seen and heard by the public. Disasters stimulate fear and excitement in the public, therefore the public pays a lot of attention to them (Popkin, 25). In turn politicians are attentive to disasters, because of their ability to benefit some politicians and/or harm others, as accredited by Steven Merksamer when he said; “My biggest fear always was of not being prepared for a major disaster […] How they are handled can make or break elected officials…”(Popkin, 25). Politicians are especially aware that the best time to be seen and heard is during disasters. Whether national, international, or personal, disasters are opportunities for politicians because of the way the public view and react to them, and because politicians’ responses to disasters create opportunity.

National disasters serve as an opportunity for political leaders to gain support and thrust from the public. During national disasters the public tends to rally-‘round-the-flag and their leaders (Glen), this was especially evident in the aftermath of the disastrous September, 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. After 9/11 the nation was distraught and the public was in need of some sought of reassurance. President Bush took that opportunity become the publics reassurance by using statements such as: “any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime,” and “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists” (Kam and Kinder, 325). These statements appealed to many Americans sense of ethnocentrism, and consequently the President was able to shift policies and shift around priorities and policies, and take action with the...
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