Long-Term Recovery Processes

Longer-term recovery periods will more explicitly involve political, economic, and cultural considerations.

Political Aspects of Recovery

A postattack period of political solidarity parallels the burst of social solidarity noted above. Citizens express increased trust and support of political leaders, and this condition may endure for a long time if a sense of crisis continues and it is perceived that leaders are dealing with it well. The most dramatic evidence of this effect came from the polling of African-American citizens in late December 2001: Results revealed 75 percent support for President George W. Bush in a segment of the population that had cast only 10 percent of its votes for him one year earlier. Such support does not last indefinitely, however, as demonstrated by the fate of his father, President George H.W. Bush, after the Gulf War.

Political leadership also pulls together in such times of crisis, particularly if the crisis involves an attack on the nation as a whole. This effect is not necessarily seen in other types of crises, such as a severe downturn in the domestic economy or major political scandals, which typically set off both class and party conflicts.

Partisan politics are quick to return, however, even in areas that have some connection with the crisis. It was less than 2 months after September 11, 2001, when Democrats and Republicans split along recognizable lines over the issue of whether airline security personnel should be federal employees or remain as private sector employees. By December, the New York Times, in summarizing the national situation, quipped that “the Democrats and Republicans are fighting about everything but terrorism” (Week in Review, December 23, 2001, p. 1). Apparently this effect is a general one. In 1689, after the semiforced departure of the Catholic King James II and the succession of William of Orange, a Whig political leader observed that “fear of Popery has united [Whigs and Tories]; when that is over, we shall divide again” (O’Gorman, 1997, p. 43).

Four other political possibilities must be mentioned:

  1. Tension between the exigencies of national security and the preservation of civil liberties. This tension is real and perhaps inevitable in times of political crisis. The two sets of considerations pull in opposite directions. Three foci of tension after September 11 were (1) the detention of immigrants; (2) the use of military tribunals for trying apprehended terrorists; and (3) the practice of ethnic profiling in checking and searching for suspects. This tension between vigilance and liberty is of special significance in the context of American democracy, given its long-standing commitment to individual rights.

  2. Discrimination against and scapegoating of related minority groups in

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