Was this the nastiest presidential campaign ever?
by D. GARY DAVIS, Bradley County Mayor
Nov 13, 2012 | 814 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The votes have been counted, the American people have spoken and Barack Obama has been re-elected to the highest office in the land. Yes, I am disappointed in the result, but this isn’t the first time my choice for president was defeated.

Gov. Mitt Romney was gracious in defeat and Mr. Obama seemed conciliatory in victory by signaling a desire to reach across the aisle and work with the opposition. I hope this is the case, for the good of the country.

It was an ugly campaign. Many people believe this presidential election was the most hateful and divisive in the history of American politics. There was an overabundance of name calling, half truths, outright lies and smears which, in my opinion, served to further divide the nation.

Mr. Romney made his appeal to voters who were dissatisfied with the last four years. To a great degree, Mr. Obama seemed to appeal to voters who were dissatisfied with America. But was it the ugliest campaign in history? It may have seemed that way because of the ability of today’s media, especially social media, to instantly focus on every negative comment and action of each candidate. However, political campaigns in America have always been nasty; as some have said … it’s a contact sport. This is unfortunate since it only creates cynicism, division and hate between Americans.

So for those of you despairing about the nasty tenor of the election, the ugly partisanship of politics and the open bias of the press ... be happy you were not around in the 19th century. That era was known as the "Dark Ages of Partisan Journalism," according to historian Gil Troy at McGill University.

The contest in the year 1800 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson was a long and bitter rematch of the 1796 campaign. Adams’ camp and his supporters in the press attacked Jefferson as an un-Christian deist. He was called "a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father."

Jefferson’s camp fired back, calling Adams a man with a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman." 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.

That race was eventually decided in the House of Representatives due to a tie in the electoral votes. Jefferson won the House vote and Aaron Burr came in second and became vice president. Some say this outcome was due to heavy lobbying by Alexander Hamilton. It is believed this may have played a role in the pistol duel in 1804 between Burr and Hamilton, in which Hamilton was killed.

The presidential election in 1824 between John Adams’ son, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson wasn’t much different. The insults and name-calling reached a crescendo with John Q. Adams being labeled a pimp and Andrew Jackson’s wife being called a slut. Historian Gil Troy says the newspaper stories about the Adams/Jackson campaign read more like bathroom graffiti than political commentary. One paper “reported” that "General Jackson's mother was a common prostitute.”

So it seems that political campaigns in America haven’t changed much in the past 200 years. The difference is in the immediate media reaction which puts the name-calling and insults on the 24-hour news channels, the Internet, your smartphone and Facebook and Twitter pages just seconds after it happens. Every flaw of each candidate is magnified a thousand times instantaneously. That’s why I am baffled as to why anyone would want the job.

Recently, I read about an 85-year-old woman who lived in Germany when the Third Reich came to power in the 1930s. She said the headlines and news stories in the American press today remind her of how it was then. She said she is very afraid that we are throwing our country away, and the media are complicit.

So, as Mr. Obama begins his second term I pray he will work to unite us and remember that he is president of ALL Americans. About 50 percent are very disappointed and the other half are very happy. But in the end, we all want the same thing — to live free, secure and healthy lives in the greatest nation in the world.

God bless America!