Many pundits and voters often tend to harken back to an era in which civility and chivalry ruled the day as far as politics were concerned.
I must say that this is a pleasant fantasy, but, then again, so is hitting the lottery and finding buried treasure in your backyard. In reality, no such period of time ever existed. As a matter of fact, according to the late, great Barbara Holland in her spellbinding Hail to the Chiefs, during the nineteenth century, candidates were frequently referred to by way of obscenities in campaign literature, and their mothers even accused of being prostitutes. Shockingly enough, all of this was merely the tip of the iceberg. Towards the beginning of the 1900s, the vitriol subsided quite a bit, though this only gave way to the operation of what we would now refer to as a smear campaign ; the sort of extensive character assassination plot too disgusting to take place atop the dinner table, so it goes on underneath instead and spreads like wildfire there.
Examples of this include, but are most certainly not limited to, some in the Republican party apparatus making outlandish innuendos about Democratic nominee Al Smith’s Roman Catholicism during the 1928 presidential campaign, and Lyndon B. Johnson ghoulishly attacking GOP standard-bearer Barry Goldwater’s unpopular hawkish stances on foreign policy matters nearly forty years later, despite harboring many of the same views himself. While a brief period of relative calm came about in the mid-1970s, tensions flared back up again in the early eighties due to the Reagan v. Carter spectacle, and then eased once more as the residual effects of Reaganomics cooled scores of previously hot heads. What happened immediately after this brings us into the modern era with headstrong force, so we will stop right here for now.
Just from simply looking at the facts, it is easy to deduce that the political process has always managed to bring out the absolute worst in people, as have other competitive entities, such as sports and gambling. That being said, the bad decisions made by individual athletes and gamblers do not affect the nation as a whole, while those of politicians do. Bright spots such as the bipartisan support garnered for Dwight D. Eisenhower’s measures against illegal immigration and Richard Nixon’s oil price controls provide us with a glimpse of how things might appear in an environment where propositions from the other side of the aisle are treated with intellectual curiosity as opposed to knee-jerk rejection, but, when all is said and done, all they are are glimpses, and what a tremendous shame that is.
It is hard to believe that what comes next makes all of this pale in comparison.