As I have been watching the local channels’ coverage of the blizzard(s) of 2010, I have been struck by the number of disgruntled people, mostly in Baltimore City. People whose streets have not been plowed or salted are very upset, and they are looking for someone to blame.
For some, the unplowed streets presents the problem that if they do not work, they do not get paid. For others, there are health considerations. I heard in one news report that a person who needed dialysis died because he could not get out to his appointment.
Bryan Sears, political editor for Patuxent Publishing, noted that failure to remove snow in a timely manner has had political ramifications in the past. The Baltimore County Republican Party issued a press release criticizing County Executive Jim Smith and the County Council for spending more time on speed cameras and their pensions than on public works. Chris Cavey, the Chairman of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, was careful to direct his criticism at the County politicians, and not to the men and women out plowing the streets.
So, will the government’s handling of these storms result in election losses this year? The offices likely to be affected are those on the local level, meaning county officials, and perhaps the Governor (although I think that is unlikely). It is also unlikely to have any influence on U.S. Congress members, but voters already have plenty of reasons to be angry with them.
I find it interesting the Senate President Mike Miller (a Democrat) has criticized Annapolis for its snow removal (the Annapolis mayor is a Democrat). Miller quickly stated that he is not blaming the Annapolis mayor, but then who is he blaming?
On the one hand, the people who have been snowed in have been very frustrated with the government response. On the other hand, the general election is 9 months away (the primary is 7 months away), and voters empirically have short memories. For example, are people still upset about the 20 percent increase in the sales tax from three years ago?
Another truism is that voters are impatient for results. Case in point: President Barack Obama’s approval rating has been plummeting, because people are frustrated or angry that the economy has not recovered yet.
People will give government officials some time to clear their streets, especially because these storms are greater than we usually see in Maryland. But do not expect their patience to last more than a couple of days. Then, the question remains, will voters take this anger and frustration to the polls in the fall, and who will be their target?