Reubin O'D. Askew and the Golden Age of Florida Politics. By Martin A. Dyckman. Florida Government and Politics. (Gainesville and other cities: Published by University Press of Florida in cooperation with the Lawton M. Chiles Jr. Center for Florida History, Florida Southern College, c. 2011. Pp. [xiv], 342. $29.95, ISBN 978-0-8130-3571-0.)
Florida is not usually thought of as a state with a heritage of great political leadership. Most spectacularly, the 2000 presidential election held the state up to ridicule for its incompetence and buffoonery. Yet there is good reason to see Florida politics in a more positive light. Beginning with LeRoy Collins (who served 1955-1961), the Sunshine State has had more than its share of capable, dynamic governors.
The most celebrated of these chief executives since Collins was Reubin O'Donovan Askew (1971-1979), who in one academic survey was named one of the ten greatest American governors of the twentieth century. Askew and his era are the subjects of Martin A. Dyckman's Reubin O'D. Askew and the Golden Age of" Florida Politics. The author himself is a remarkable individual. One of the most distinguished Florida political journalists, he served almost half a century with the St. Petersburg Times in various capacities. Upon retirement in 2006, he embarked on a second career as a historian and has since written three books.
There is a dual focus in this book. On the one hand, it is a political biography of Askew. But on the other, as the title indicates, it is about what Dyckman calls the "Golden Age" of Florida politics. This era, according to Dyckman, began in 1967 with a reapportionment decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that effectively destroyed the old Florida political order based in a malapportioned state legislature. The decision resulted in scores of new legislators and a wave of reform. The golden age ended in 1987 with the repeal of a state sales tax on services. This measure halted the movement to broaden the state tax base and reversed the momentum for reform. …