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Guest column | James Pettican

Comings and goings of political parties sheds no light on GOP's future

In the more than 235 years of American history, many political parties have been born, flourished and died. In my own 92-years-and-counting lifetime, there has been no shortage of political births and deaths.

During my first decade, the Prohibition Party made a big splash as it fought to ban the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. For awhile, it included a considerable portion of the electorate but has long since disappeared from public view. Oddly enough though, it still exists and received exactly 519 votes in the November presidential election.

The so-called Dixiecrats, a coalition of Southern anti-civil rights politicians, rose to prominence in the late 1940s and won the electoral votes of four Southern states in 1948. That was their high-water mark as the burgeoning civil rights movement gained momentum and they are only found in history books today.

Long before Gov. Rick Scott won office with his own wealth, Texas billionaire Ross Perot, a believer in running the government like a business, swept onto the political scene and advocated doing just that. In the 1992 election, he captured close to 20 percent of the popular vote but no electoral votes. He fared even better locally, capturing almost 25.5 percent of the vote in Pasco County compared to 39 percent for Democrat Bill Clinton and 35 percent for incumbent President George H.W. Bush.

In 1996, however, Perot's popular vote nationally shrunk to half of his '92 tally. The same held mostly true in Pasco where he received 13.5 percent of the vote. He is not heard from very much these days but is still on the national scene.

Amid the wreckage of the 2012 GOP presidential scene, talk already has turned to prospects for 2016. Two names are in the forefront, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Rubio seems to create problems as he moves through the political scene. First, it was portraying his family as fleeing Cuba to escape Castro's tyranny. Actually, they left before Castro came into power. He also became a victim of credit card confusion, not always seeming to know which of his credit cards were GOP-owned and which were his.

Recently, in an interview, he said that the age of the Earth is unknown although any public school student could have given him the answer. Later, he seemed to espouse the 6,000-year claims of Creationists. So, who knows what he really thinks.

As for Jeb Bush, who left us the legacy of the school grades and an emphasis on standardized testing, many of us don't buy what he is selling. He believed in privatizing just about everything and spoke of visions of empty government buildings being the ultimate political satisfaction.

After eight years of George W. Bush in the White House, there are questions if the public will accept that family's name again or whether Bush fatigue is very real.

For now, one has to wonder if the political Grim Reaper is looking into the Republican plight or if the GOP can recast itself as a party that will appear to younger, more ethnically diverse voters.

Retired journalist James Pettican lives in Palm Harbor.

Comings and goings of political parties sheds no light on GOP's future 12/11/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 5:56pm]
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