Words and visuals would show that the current presidential election is the nastiest ever.
It’s a good bet that only a few, if anyone, would disagree with that; however, history gives a glimpse of past sully that was quite eventful for the times.
1800: Jefferson vs. Adams
There was inherent tension as the vice president was running against the man he worked for – the existing POTUS Adams.
Jefferson worked at keeping his hands clean, so he engaged a writer to hurl insults at the foe. One memorable invective was that Adams was a “hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”
Jefferson prevailed to become the third U.S. president.
Adams, backed by the Federalists (the first American political party) put forth: “Are you prepared to see your dwellings in flames … female chastity violated … children writhing on the pike? Great God of compassion and justice, shield my country from destruction.”
The Federalist Party lasted until 1816 (although the mindset for some lasted years more), and it has been opined that its adherents would have been mortified to learn that in 1936, Jefferson would be considered one of America’s greatest presidents, commemorated with his face on Mount Rushmore.
Whether it was related or not, as an aside, the 12th Amendment was passed by Congress, whereby no longer would the candidate who got the second most votes automatically become vice president.
1828: Andrew Jackson vs. J.Q Adams
Adams and his supporters would paint Jackson as a “dictator” and “uneducated,” claiming he spelled Europe as “Urope.”
Mrs. Rachel Jackson was not off-limits.
Not unusual, both sides claimed different reasons for her first husband Lewis Robards divorcing her; he claimed adultery, while she claimed abuse. Whichever, divorce was a disgrace and scandal-rich. Rachel was cast as a “dirty black wench,” a “convicted adulteress” who was inclined to act with “open and notorious lewdness.”
Jackson, on the other hand, would assert that Adams “had sold his wife’s maid as a concubine to the czar of Russia.”
Jackson won pretty handily: 642,553 votes to Adams’ 500,897. (Wikipedia).
1860: Lincoln vs. Douglas
Today we expect candidates to travel between venues for months of campaigning. Neatorama reports, “it was considered a little tacky” in earlier days. Douglas chose to travel anyway.
Lincoln and supporters took advantage of Douglas’ home absence and passed out pamphlets, among other things, calling Douglas the “Little Giant “ – a shot at his 5’4” height – expanded to “about five feet nothing in height and about the same in diameter the other way.”
Douglas would say Lincoln was a “horrid-looking wretch, sooty and scoundrelly (sic) in aspect, a cross between the nutmeg dealer, the horse-swapper and the nightman,” and “Lincoln is the leanest, lankest, most ungainly mass of legs and arms and hatchet face ever strung on a single frame.”
1884: Cleveland vs. Blaine
Cleveland was storied to be a lewd and lustful guy. Although he was unmarried at the time, he fathered a child with Maria Halpin, a widow. Cleveland supported the child but never married the mother.
Blaine and his supporters ridiculed Cleveland with “Ma. Ma. Where’s my pa?”
Blaine was also burdened with the scandal of his dealings and corruption involving railroad construction.
Reports exist from sites (including Newstalk Florida) that a letter was found (no date given), authored by Blaine, wherein he signed with: “My regards to Mrs. Fisher. Burn this letter.” Cleveland’s Democrats made up their own chant based on his writings: “Burn this letter. Burn this letter.”
1928: Hoover vs. Smith
Hoover won handily with 58.2 percent of the vote versus Smith’s 40.8 percent. Smith’s failing was seen on two points. One was his religion, Catholic. It was believed that if he were elected, the Pope would be a voice in the presidency. Two: his association with Tammany Hall, aka the Society of St. Tammany. It was a “Democratic political machine” that wielded influence over New York City and New York state politics.
These times were not an era of any social media, perverted or otherwise.
While most of us are woeful at the dilapidated and treacherous system we have today, negativity, lies and personal destruction are the game.
Like it or not, there is no putting the toothpaste back into the tube.