Monday, January 28, 2008

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

Recently I just finished reading Anything for a Vote: Dirty Tricks, Cheap Shots, and October Surprises. The book goes through each presidential election in US history and focuses on how dirty each was. Each election gets 2-6 pages or so. Here are some of the highlights:

In 1800 Jefferson’s people called Adams “a hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” Adam’s supporters responded with “Jefferson is a mean-spirited low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” They also spread rumors that Jefferson was dead.

In 1828 John Quincy Adam’s supports taunted Andrew Jackson in the hopes that he would challenge someone to a duel. Jackson supporters spread rumors that Adams had offered his wife’s maid to the czar as a concubine.

Davy Crockett in 1836 said that “Martin Van Buren is laced up in corsets, such as women in a town wear, and if possible tighter than the best of them. It would be difficult to say from his personal appearance, whether he was a man or a woman, but for his large red and gray whiskers.”

One of the worst elections ever was 1876. Tilden’s supports said that Hays shot and wounded his mother “in a fit of insanity.” Hays people claimed Tilden got syphilis from an Irish whore which made him susceptible to blackmail.

For the 1896 election the New York Times published an article called “Is Mr. Bryan Crazy?” It stated that if Bryan was elected “there would be a madman in the White House.” Two days later another article appeared that said Bryan suffered from megalomania, paranoia querulent (complaining too much), and querulent logorrhea (talking about complaining too much).

It was an enjoyable read, and I learned a lot not only about dirty political tactics but American history as well. I recommend this book, especially if you think that politics has never been worse than it is today.


Jason Br. said...

It seems plausible to me (and your anecdotes support this) that politics has never been better than it is today.

Warren said...

I think the animosity level is the same or greater, but the ridiculous mudslinging has gone down.