Friday, October 19, 2012

Longing for a "civilized" presidential campaign? Fuggedaboudit!

            It seems every presidential election year, I hear some of my women friends—both Democrats and Republicans—voice annoyance with the vitriolic political atmosphere. Their complaints go something like this: I’m so tired of the rhetoric and hateful attacks. Can’t we just have a civilized campaign?
 
            To this question, I categorically answer, “No.”

            I say “categorically” because my limited understanding of history convinces me that presidential campaigns have seldom been free of heated, impassioned discourse. Nor have they been free of those who play fast and loose with the truth or those who demonize opponents with spurious accusations.

            A few years ago, David McCullough’s John Adams proved to be an eye-opening read for me. Among the author’s most striking revelations was the “dirty politics” that ran rampant during Adams’  bid for re-election against Thomas Jefferson. Those are two of the nation’s most revered Founding Fathers, yet that campaign was rife with slurs and innuendos and out-and-out lies.

            According to McCullough, “In the summer of 1800 the question of who was to lead the nation became a contest of personal vilification surpassing any presidential election in American history...and whether Adams or Jefferson was the most abused would be hard to say.”

            Among the charges hurled at Jefferson:

            “...a Jefferson victory would mean civil war.”

            “...Jefferson had swindled clients as a young lawyer...”

            “Not only was Jefferson a godless man, but one who mocked the Christian 
             faith ...Bibles would have to be hidden away for safekeeping were he
             elected.”

            Adams was no less a victim, being ridiculed as

            “...old, addled, and toothless.”

            “...[sending] Charles Cotesworth Pinckney to London to procure four
            pretty mistresses to divide between them.” (Can you imagine?
            John Adams??!!!)

            “...quite mad.”

            John Adams was published in 2001, so I don’t know if after the 2004 and 2008 elections, McCullough would still claim the Adams-Jefferson election was the vilest in American history. But it has to be right up there as one of the meanest, and if the situation hasn’t changed in the past 212 years, I don’t see it doing so in the future.

            But if I can’t offer hope the acerbic atmosphere of campaigns will improve, maybe I can at least offer the following suggestions for easing election angst:

            1) Completely dismiss the campaign and watch only sitcoms and reality TV.
                Or keep the subject light and get all your political information from
                SNL skits or late-night talk shows.

            OR (and these are the two I recommend)

            2) Educate yourself by reading. Reading the opinions of those you
                respect and trust or reading the words as they came straight from
                the horse’s mouth allows you time to absorb and process the material
                being presented without the yelling, interrupting and posturing
                found on most political talk shows or without the convenient
                "spinning," the telling us what we just heard in case we're too dumb
                to figure it out for ourselves. You should also read information 
                presented by BOTH sides.

            AND

            3) Pray...for God to appoint and anoint our next president. And then
\               —whoever is elected—continue to pray for him and our country.

           

1 comment:

  1. I agree with so much of what you've said here. Politics is not civilized...but it shouldn't be ignorant. That is what makes me want to tear my hair out. It seems social media has made an expert of everyone. I overheard someone laughing about making comments on Facebook just to see how many people would respond.And, here's the part that gets me...SHE WASN'T EVEN REGISTERED TO VOTE. Many people popping off on Facebook and elsewhere haven't watched the debates and haven't studied the candidates, and haven't watched or read news sources with viewpoints unlike their own. So, if you were saying that reading the opinions of people you respect and trust is enough to cast your vote, I disagree. (Although, I'm really just stressing this because I do think you intended this as a multi-prong approach.) I don't think a person's vote should be decided by one's minister, bff, spouse, political commentator, or funny guy online.

    The time to place trust in other people is when we cast our votes. And, hopefully, after other voters have carefully researched and voted on the person who best shares their idea of the future. That is what makes the system represent who we truly are as a nation.

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