Election mud slinging in America

Published 11:13 pm Saturday, August 16, 2008

We still have a few weeks to go before the presidential election and we wonder how the mud slinging on both sides can get any worse. Apparently our election system requires opponents to square off like the Olympic boxers and whale away at one another. If we were to believe what we are told Obama is too inexperienced and McCain is too old to be president. By the time the election is over about half the country will have been ill informed and distrustful of the nations leadership no matter who wins. Perhaps Winston Churchill was right when he said our system of government was the worst except for all the other systems.

However, it has been this way since the birth of the nation. George Washington seems to have been given a pass but when Adams and Jefferson squared off their supporters went after the candidates with fire in their eyes.

Thomas Jefferson was called an atheist, anarchist, coward, trickster, demagogue and mountebank.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Adams was labeled egotistical, erratic, eccentric, and jealous by nature. (Some folks think those are normal presidential traits but I shouldn’t have mentioned it.)

In his book, PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS, Paul Boller documents the fact that our election system has not improved. For example, in 1828, when Andrew Jackson opposed John Quincy Adams he was accused of adultery, gambling, cockfighting, bigamy, slave trading, drunkenness, theft, lying, and murder. On the other hand, Adams was accused of having premarital relations with his fiance, and traveling on Sunday!

Jackson apparently won the title of having the most colorful past and won the election. After his election he got even with his opponents by adopting the law of the jungle (To the victor belongs the spoils) by firing government workers and replacing them with his own people.

When James Polk ran against Henry Clay he announced that his opponent had broken every one of the ten commandments. Clay responded by describing Mr. Polk as “unimaginative”. Polk won. No doubt about it, the lack of an imagination was low on the list of things the voters were looking for. Are we beginning to see a pattern here? In these cases the candidate who was tarred the most was elected.

Here’s another case in point: When U.S. Grant ran against the great newspaper editor, Horace Greeley, he was described as being a crook, an ignoramus, a drunk, a swindler, and a “utterly depraved horse jockey”. Apparently the citizens favored horse jockeys because Grant carried 31 of the 37 states.

In 1912, when Theodore Roosevelt ran against Woodrow Wilson he was shot in the chest while campaigning in Illinois. He got up and finished his speech before going to the hospital. Nevertheless, Wilson won.

I became involved in politics at eight years of age in 1928 when Catholic Al Smith ran against Herbert Hoover, a Quaker. My father was for Hoover but mother was for Al Smith. Dad handed me a stack of Hoover hand bills and instructed me to deliver them to the houses in the neighborhood. Clearly, Mother did not believe the supporters of Hoover who put out the message that, if Al Smith won, he would annul all protestant marriages! Even worse, some folks believed the rumor that, if Smith were elected, he would extend the Holland Tunnel all the way to Rome! In that election, Herbert Hoover won.

The President jokes about the charge that he is mentally challenged. In fact he doesn’t appear to be concerned about being “misunderestimated” at all. Out of curiosity I went on internet to access to his Yale entrance score. His score converts into an IQ of 130 (87th percentile) which would have qualified a person to enter doctoral programs in many graduate schools except for the fact that he only earned a “C” grade average.

After his college years in which he was, in his words, “young and stupid”, George W. Bush accepted the Lord and made a hundred and eighty degree turn. In a speech to a graduating class he said “Most people over the ages have viewed the search for moral truth as one of the main purposes of life. And they were correct. Good societies are constructed on the conviction that there is right, and there is wrong.” He certainly got that right.