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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Columns

Dirty politics is usual element in presidential elections


As this election season wraps up, we talk more often about how this election season was the worst for political rhetoric in our history. Politics has been degraded to such a point where it is now a bloodbath reality show.

We have seen some of the oddest and most hate-filled rhetoric in the past year and a half, and it only seems to be getting worse.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, earlier this year, called out the tone of this election season and urged for a “return to civility.” This echoes what many other politicians and most Americans are thinking as they have become increasingly frustrated with 2016.

We have this mindset that politics is meant to be and has always been this virtuous profession determined by reason and accuracy, and all disputes between politicians are settled with charming wit and undeniable facts.

We think that in the olden days, politicians would sit around discussing the plaudits of different courses of action while being extremely cordial with one another. This whole line of thinking, however, is extremely naive and wholly untrue when you look at politics through a historical lens and find the terribleness that is the world of politics.

Politics has always been a dirty game.

Just look at the beginning of the U.S. and you’ll find issues with the “tone” set by the politicians of the day. Sure, George Washington was fine. He didn’t do anything insane, as far as we know.

Then you look at the 1800 presidential campaign between John Adams and, his vice president, Thomas Jefferson, which has been called the nastiest campaign in — certainly — U.S. history.

While you may hate that Trump consistently calls Clinton a liar and that she needs to be locked up, or Clinton subtly implying that Trump is Hitler, at least they’re not trying to degrade each other by calling the other a hermaphrodite.

That’s exactly what Jefferson did when he hired James Callender, a newspaper editor, to write a “hit piece” on John Adams.

That’s not even scratching the surface. These two hated each other and used every form of vitriolic name-calling (for the 1800s) in the book.

Then look at the story of Alexander Hamilton. While he is the man who the popular musical “Hamilton” is based off of, more importantly, he created the U.S. financial system we see today.

Hamilton did not die a normal death: He was shot by a political opponent in a duel over politics.

In 1804, vice president Aaron Burr shot Hamilton in a duel since their disagreements over politics had become so hateful. Again, you can hate the way that Trump and Clinton are acting, but at least they’re not dueling it out with firearms.

Finally, for a more modern context, let’s turn to a fellow Texan and the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson. He was basically Trump before Trump; he once said to the Greek ambassador to the U.S., “(expletive) your parliament and your constitution.”

That doesn’t seem very civil to me.

So, yes, Trump and Clinton have been terrible, but they’re not the worst of all time when taking historical context into account. At least they’re not legitimately shooting each other in a duel. Politics has always been terribly dirty, and it’s naive to pretend like it’s always been some reputable profession that was about gentle handshakes.

This election is nothing new.

Senior staff columnist Jorden Smith is a political science junior and president of the College Republicans. He can be reached at [email protected]

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