Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston
Saturday, July 11, 2015
American Political Campaigns: Since Adams' and Jefferson's Time, They've Been Rough and Nasty
A pearl-clutcher on the intertubez breathlessly wondered why President Obama says the things he says--going after the opposition party, for example. Then the fainting coucher claims that is because he lacks dignity and doesn't understand that president just don't do that.
Oh but presidents DO do that. Read some American history. Politicians have been talking about the opposition in presidential politics in insulting rhetoric since John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson:
"[Thomas} Jefferson's camp accused President 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."
In return, Adams' men called Vice President Jefferson "a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father."
As the slurs piled on, Adams was labeled a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant, while Jefferson was branded a weakling, an atheist, a libertine, and a coward.
Even Martha Washington succumbed to the propaganda, telling a clergyman that Jefferson was "one of the most detestable of mankind."
Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams:
John Quincy Adams gets slapped with elitism
John Adams lived long enough to see his son become president in 1825, but he died before John Quincy Adams lost the presidency to Andrew Jackson in 1828. Fortunately, that meant he didn't have to witness what many historians consider the nastiest contest in American history. The slurs flew back and forth, with John Quincy Adams being labeled a pimp, and Andrew Jackson's wife getting called a slut.
Jackson denounced the "corrupt bargain" that put [John Quincy] Adams in the White House and laid plans for a crusade to oust Adams from office.
Grover Cleveland vs. James Blaine, 1884
"...[stories] of [Grover Cleveland's] lecherousness were plentiful. One was verified, though - Cleveland, while still a bachelor, had fathered a child with a widow named Maria Halpin. He fully supported the child. So really, by today's standards, it probably wouldn't be that much of a scandal. No marriages ruined, no paternity tests, no child support issues.
Nevertheless, the Republican party, who supported candidate James Blaine, took this and ran with it. They made up the chant, "Ma! Ma! Where's my pa?" and used it to taunt Cleveland. Blaine was no innocent, though. He was accused of shady dealings with the railroad, which was confirmed when a letter was found in which Blaine pretty much confirmed that he knew he was involved in corrupt business - he signed the letter, "My regards to Mrs. Fisher. Burn this letter!" Cleveland's Democrats made up their own chant based on his writings - "Burn this letter! Burn this letter!"
Herbert Hoover vs. Al Smith:
Smith lost pretty badly to Republican Herbert Hoover, largely due to one reason: his religion. At the time of the election, the Holland Tunnel in New York was just being finished up. Republicans told everyone that the Catholic Smith had commissioned a secret tunnel 3,500 miles long, from the Holland Tunnel to the Vatican in Rome, and that the Pope would have say in all presidential matters should Smith be elected.
#1. “The Republicans believe in the minimum wage — the more the minimum, the better.”
#2. “Richard Nixon is a no good, lying bastard. He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, and if he ever caught himself telling the truth, he’d lie just to keep his hand in.”
#3. “A bureaucrat is a Democrat who holds some office that a Republican wants.”
#4. “Republicans don’t like people who talk about depressions. You can hardly blame them for that. You remember the old saying: Don’t talk about rope in the house where somebody has been hanged.”
The best question on nasty campaigning and what presidents say about the opposition is this:
Why should politicians respect one another when nobody respects politicians?
Yes. Why. Read any number of political blogs and news sites to see the sneering, malignant opinions, for example, about President Obama. They've called into question his citizenship, his religion -- the TGOPers believe he's a secret Muslim -- his patriotism (to them he's an "America-hater), and some of the more scurrilous blogs hint that he's a secret homosexual, commie, Nazi, fascist, Marxist and non-stop vacation taker. ( Mr. Obama has taken fewer vacations than Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush.)
It is puzzling to read some pearl-clutcher whining about a president's rhetoric about the opposition party or the propaganda arm of the GOP that tries to pass itself off as a "fair and balanced" cable news station when that person has no idea of what our history is nor how the present opposition party --the TGOP --- continues to spread and feed off of rumors, lies, and ignorance.