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Playing Politics with Natural DisasterHurricane Agnes, the 1972 Election, and the Origins of FEMA$
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Timothy W. Kneeland

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501748530

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501748530.001.0001

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Playing Politics with Disaster

Playing Politics with Disaster

Relief Efforts and the 1972 Election

(p.59) 4 Playing Politics with Disaster
Playing Politics with Natural Disaster

Timothy W. Kneeland

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines how Richard Nixon mixed politics and policy in his response to Hurricane Agnes. To aid in winning his reelection bid in 1972, Nixon was determined to play politics with disaster relief legislation, mainly as it applied to New York and Pennsylvania. In order to gain Nixon as many votes as possible from the disaster, the Nixon White House wrote, and Congress enacted, the most generous disaster aid package in American history to that time: the Agnes Recovery Act of 1972. The relationship between disasters and elections has generated a body of research that shows a strong correlation between when and where presidents issue a disaster declaration. Disaster declarations are more frequent in highly competitive swing states during presidential election years, and presidents favor those states that may benefit them or their party in the election, as Nixon did in response to Hurricane Agnes.

Keywords:   Richard Nixon, politics, Hurricane Agnes, disaster relief legislation, New York, Pennsylvania, disaster aid package, Agnes Recovery Act, presidential elections

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