Having been born when Woodrow Wilson was in the White House and now, trying to get used to nonagenarian status, I have seen my share of American politicians and elections.
Over the decades, I have interviewed Sen. J. William Fulbright and shaken hands with John F. Kennedy back when he was still a presidential candidate. I saw and heard Wendell Willkie on the stump back in 1940 and saw presidential hopeful Ronald Reagan speak in St. Petersburg. While each race for the White House is different, it is, at the same time, more than a little familiar.
What I call political musts and must-nots have come down to us through the years. When the subject of taxes comes up, handle it very carefully. You must, by all means, oppose raising taxes — whether we need to or not. Try to change the subject by painting a rosy picture of our future.
Ignore those experts who predict that the 21st will be the Chinese Century. Summon up visions of America's past greatness. Remember, however, that although we will do big things, we will do them with a small government. Is that possible? Reality says it's not, but the nearest Tea Party rally will assure you that it is.
This time around, health care will be a big topic. Conservatives are making the recent health care changes seem evil with their use of the pejorative term "Obama Care." The reality is that the recent health care changes represent a compromise. And compromises — be they good, bad or indifferent — never please anyone completely.
This compromise resulted from our latest attempt to catch up to the rest of the developed world. We are, at this moment in time, still the world's No. 1 superpower; yet, millions of our citizens have no health insurance. When they need help, they get it the most expensive way. They go to the nearest hospital emergency room. Having a family doctor via universal health care would make more fiscal sense and more common sense too.
Jobs will be high on the political rallies agenda too. Some have been shipped overseas and, probably, will never return. Others are just taking shape as the new century ushers in a new digital world where skills will be rewarded, provided we nurture and maintain an educational system good enough to teach them.
Finally, like used car lots, political rallies will continue to display lots of flags and bunting. Be cautious though and remember the words of Samuel Johnson back in 1775: "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
Retired journalist James Pettican lives in Palm Harbor.