So, you think the 2016 presidential election is ugly, get ready to head for your safe spaces, because Trump v. Clinton pales in comparison with some of our nation’s earliest presidential contests.
A former First Lady told a clergyman that one of the contestants for the presidency was, “one of the most detestable of mankind.”
That same candidate was attacked by his opponent as being, “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”
The First Lady in question was Martha Washington, and Thomas Jefferson turned out to be a pretty good President, even after those slurs.
Of course, Vice President Jefferson’s campaign had accused President John Adams of having a, “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”
Those Founding Fathers sure had a way with words not restricted by the modern 140 character twitter invective norm.
Back in the day, surrogates delivered the attack messages and the Yale University President at the time representing John Adams told audiences that should Jefferson be elected, “we would see our wives and daughters the victims of legal prostitution.”
A Connecticut newspaper told its readers that a nation under Jefferson would be a place where “murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will openly be taught and practiced.”
Since that election of 1800, we have seen Andrew Jackson lose the election of 1824 even though he won the popular vote, but did not get a majority in the Electoral College. The House of Representatives picked John Quincy Adams to be the next President with then Speaker Henry Clay getting named Secretary of State in exchange for delivering the White House to John Adams’ son.
Jackson came back in 1828 to win the presidency weathering charges that he was an adulterer and his wife, a bigamist, as she failed to get divorced before marrying him.
Abraham Lincoln was called a drunk by his opponent during the famous Lincoln/Douglass debates, and his appearance was ridiculed by all the finest cartoonists in ways that went beyond cruel.
And while the language was less harsh, Teddy Roosevelt split the Republican Party in 1912 because President Willam Howard Taft was using the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to try to break up parts of banker JP Morgan’s empire. The ensuing general election saw Roosevelt running as a third party against his former friend Taft, the GOP nominee and Democrat Woodrow Wilson, and Wilson winning a landslide in the Electoral College in spite of losing the popular vote when the totals of Roosevelt and Taft were combined.
All four faces chiseled into Mount Rushmore, George Washington (through his wife), Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt succumbed to or were victimized by the natural divisions of the battle for the presidency.
2016 is only different because the 24/7 nature of our communications makes the charges larger than life and allows more of them to be delivered directly to the American people without any screening media.
The vicious nature of politics merely reveals the high stakes involved, and the alternative is for these same attacks to remain hidden behind the closed doors of power brokers who decide the winner rather than bother the people with choosing candidates warts and all.
The alternative to political food fights is to leave the decision to the political, Wall Street and Hollywood elites who can then allow us the illusion of choosing between two pre-approved candidates no different than right and left Twix.
For all its mess, I’ll take political freedom and the right to choose someone who breaks the mold, even if it means that the elites go into full attack mode to defend their newly threatened status.
Vote this Tuesday and show the world that American democracy works and that America will be restored to greatness.
This is a guest post by Rick Manning president of Americans for Limited Government.