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Gil Mertz: Count on the fickle American electorate

Posted: December 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.

One of the lingering questions from the recent election is if this signals a turning point of the American electorate, as we are now hearing from both sides. I think it’s too early to tell for sure, but if we look at our recent past, we’ll find that our politics have been quite fickle.

Let’s start with 1992 presidential election. George H.W. Bush was considered unbeatable the year before with an approval rating that peaked over 80 percent during the Gulf War.

Just one year later America would show her fickleness as Bush would lose to Bill Clinton. Of course, if Ross Perot hadn’t carried nearly 19 percent of the vote, Clinton might have gone the way of Michael Dukakis.

However, Clinton won, and after 12 years of a Republican in the White House, a new era had begun. Long live the Democrats!

Just two years later America would show her fickleness again as Republicans would come roaring back with their Gingrich-led Contract with America, and they would take the House of Representatives.

Rush Limbaugh had a short-lived television program in those days, and he was in full celebration mode. He proclaimed, “Liberalism is dead in America!”

Two years later, America proved that liberalism was not dead as Clinton won convincingly over Bob Dole to be re-elected for a second term.

Meanwhile, the political pundits of that day insisted that the Republican Party was in shambles and would need to change to reach out to more people — or it would continue to lose elections. Sound familiar?

Enter George Bush in 2000 against the sitting vice president, Al Gore, in the most contested presidential campaign of our history. Ralph Nader became the Democrat’s “Ross Perot” and made it possible for Bush to win.

The Republicans were back in the White House and would actually control both houses of Congress. Not bad for a party that was considered in shambles just four years before.

The 2004 election was supposed to be judgment day for George W. Bush. Still feeling the bitter taste in their mouths from what Democrats saw as a stolen election in 2000, Bush was going down!

Once again, America proved its fickle nature as Bush won re-election. The following morning on the “Today Show,” Katie Couric was dressed in a long-sleeved black dress that stretched from the floor to a turtle neck top. All Democrats were in grief as they were so sure the election would go the other way. How could America re-elect George W. Bush?

Bush not only won re-election, he actually expanded his majorities in both the House and the Senate, which surely marked the end of liberalism again — right?

Now the political pundits were suggesting that the Democratic Party had to change after losing two presidential elections. They were supposed to be in disarray as the future looked bleak.

Just two years later America showed its fickleness again as Democrats came back in a fury to win both houses of Congress from the Republicans.

Two years after that, Barack Obama burst onto the scene with an excitement we haven’t seen since the days of John F. Kennedy. He defeated the well-funded Democratic powerhouse and heir-apparent Hillary Clinton and coasted to victory over John McCain.

Surely, this would mean the end of conservatism as America welcomed a new spirit of hope and change.

Once again, America would show its fickleness, empowering  Republicans to take back the House in what President Obama referred to as a shellacking. This was proclaimed a repudiation of Obama’s policies and the Democratic Party, which surely meant America would want a new president in 2012, right?

2012 was supposed to be Obama’s reckoning, just as 2004 was supposed to be the end of George W. Bush. It didn’t happen. Republicans were left scratching their heads in disbelief, just as Democrats did when Bush was re-elected.

What I find amusing is that political pundits are at it again. This year’s election must mean the end of the Republican Party and conservatism, right?

Those who believe such things have not been paying attention over the last 20 years as both major political parties have risen and fallen just when we thought we had it all figured out. The only thing we know for sure is that the American electorate can be fickle.

Gil Mertz is a resident of Agua Dulce.


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