was an unscripted dose of reality. As the deadly wind and water flattened homes and flooded the Jersey shore and streets in Queens and lower Manhattan, Americans saw, courtesy of Mother Nature and climate change, precisely the purpose and necessity of a well-funded and capable government.
Every nationally-televised image of hundreds of submerged homes and thousands of pedestrians trudging across bridges might as well have had a caption reading, "Are you sure you don't like government?"
In 48 spectacularly tragic hours, the roof was swept off of a year's worth of lies about self-reliance and "freedom" from government and the virtue of going it on your own. This false narrative was always a temporary ruse, you understand; the Mitt Romneys and Donald Trumps of the nation, who make their fortunes from the political and military force of big government, have always understood that trashing the idea of government in order to deceptively flatter working- and middle-class whites' sense of individual power would only work in the window between revelatory catastrophes. The rich were betting, understandably, that this window would extend at least beyond the election. They bet wrong.
President Barack Obama cannot take credit for this instant's storm of clarity, although he certainly benefits (check out Republicans Chris Christie and Michael Bloomberg lately!). Mitt Romney cannot be blamed for it, although splinters of his rottenly dishonest platform about the venality of government are now among the flotsam being carried down the Hudson. And it remains to be seen how much this profound lesson will register next Tuesday.
But talk about an October surprise.