The 2016 presidential campaign has devolved into a sad spectacle of negative rhetoric and uncivil barbs traded among Republican and Democrat candidates.
Yes, it is getting nasty. However, The Washington Post is wrong when it claims that this crop of White House hopefuls has resorted to “…a level of petty and profane discourse unprecedented in a presidential campaign.”
Had the reporters taken only a moment, they would have discovered that this year’s campaign is mild compared with the tactics employed by earlier American politicians.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams in 1800 traded vicious slurs. Although Jefferson employed James Callendar to do his dirty work who claimed Adams had neither the strength of a man nor the kindness of a woman. Adams supporters responded by insisting that Jefferson was “…the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”
Nearly three decades later John Quincy Adams was embroiled in an equally nasty campaign against Andrew Jackson. Adams was accused of being a pimp during his term as American Ambassador to Russia. Adams supporters in turn claimed that Jackson was an adulterer and his wife a bigamist.
Even Abraham Lincoln, for all his rhetorical gifts, apparently did little to deter his Republican supporters from mocking Stephen Douglas during the 1860 debates. And Douglas advocates were even more merciless in their depiction of Lincoln as “…a horrid looking wretch.”
The 1884 race between Grover Cleveland and James G. Blaine was another low point in American presidential campaigns. Cleveland had to survive a paternity scandal while Blaine was perceived as anti-Catholic and anti-Irish.
It’s true that on this the eve of Super Tuesday those who aspire to be the next president have not acted in a manner that commands respect.
But one of the dirtiest campaign seasons in America’s history? Not by a long shot.