After the water recedes, the fires are extinguished and neighbors help one another recover from the devastation of the October storm forever and incongruously known as Sandy, the work will have to go on grimly from Virginia to New York and Connecticut, from New Jersey to Pennsylvania and Ohio.Amid the devastation to America's most densely populated region, the country will go about the business of choosing a president. Neither major candidate has adequately addressed how he will go about rebuilding something else, the American middle class.The storm is an apt metaphor for a nation whose most important asset -- its middle class -- was not just battered in the economic storm of 2008 or worn down in the ensuing years, but eroded steadily for two decades prior. And yet, even if grimly, Americans will go on with the task of trying to reclaim their lives, hopes and futures -- whoever sits in the White House. We have no choice but to go on.The most important trend in America is the steady and relentless decline of the middle class. By now, the statistics are familiar. There are more poor people in the suburbs than in the inner cities. The median income of the American family has steadily declined for a decade to just $60,974, according to The New York Times.The cost of college has soared even as belief in a better future has fallen. And yes, it is irrefutably true that the wealthiest among us have become exponentially wealthier at the same time. If you make about $8 million per year (and good for you), your household income has generally gone up 199 percent since 1980.These are not the effects of the current administration, as Republicans would have you believe. Nor are they the legacies of the last administration, as Democrats would have you believe. These are the effects of the last 20 years. Of the computerization of society. Of globalization and the massive transfer of work, capital and wealth halfway across the world. Of the transformation of America into a society increasingly indebted, publicly, privately and by its own demographics.The net result is to turn the American middle class into nothing but digits, defined by our financial and political system merely as consumers, taxpayers, and holders of mortgages, car loans, student loans and the national debt.The presidential campaigns never really dwelled on these realities because they can't be used to easily caricature one or the other candidate as an incompetent or a liar. Instead, the campaigns dwelled on taxes and spending, immigration and healthcare, issues that test well with focus groups and align with track records, promises and constituents -- and worst of all, the contributors of the cold, hard cash who make this the most expensive contest in history.Yet it isn't clear that our votes can actually be bought. It isn't even clear that the candidates succeeded in truly connecting with the people with talking points, slick advertising or platitudes.In the days ahead, everyday people will emerge as heroes amid the shock, tragedy and adversity of the storm. Their most important needs largely unaddressed in this election, the American middle class, too, has no choice but to go on: to hold on the best we can, to try to reclaim our lives and futures, regardless of who sits in the White House.Richard Parker is the president of Parker Research in Austin.