Politics are Historically Nasty
My original article, in it's unedited entirety, is included below. Thank you for reading!
One definition Merriam-Webster gives for rhetoric is: "...insincere...language". That's what comes to mind when I hear politicians and pundits calling for "more civility" in our country. The words emote feel-good but in reality it isn't going to happen. Why? Because negative works. Its naive to think all of this is new. It is not.
The first presidential election was absent primaries, conventions, campaigns, rivals, debates, speeches and popular voting by citizens. In his book "Presidential campaigns: from George Washington to George W. Bush", Paul F. Boller Jr. tells of the Electoral College's birth.
In 1787 Philadelphia, The Founding Fathers labored over the Constitution with a mind-set that a popular vote by citizens had too many weaknesses. Decidedly, George Washington, should come out of his retirement to be president, thus February 4,1789 Washington received all 56 Electoral College votes and as designed John Adams became VP with the second most votes.
Significant rift was afoot a short three years late between Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson thought Hamilton too liberally interpreted the Constitution and there were "violent disagreements" over foreign and domestic policies. The 1796 election and those following had a "great gap between rhetoric and reality". John Adams was called "an avowed friend of the monarchy" and Jefferson was called "atheist, anarchist, demagogue, coward..." Name calling like "fool, tyrant and hypocrite" were bantered.
Even then, newspapers were in on the fray. Jefferson's religion was attacked in the Connecticut Courant (newspaper) for his Deism philosophy and the paper printed that with Jefferson as "First magistrate"..."Murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will all be openly taught and practiced..."
Today we have 24/7 media's plethora of political talk show hosts. The worst are the practitioners of absolute vile, filthy name-calling. Its not limited to one side or the other but it is demonstrated that if it comes from Rush Limbaugh, demands are made to shut it and him down while smut from Ed Shultz, Keith Olbermann or Chris Mathews is unapologetically excused if not sanctioned. Critics; spare your writing time: yes, I think Limbaugh went way too far on the Sandra Fluke matter.
The lowest end of the political food chain like Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Jay Leno and David Letterman voicing despicable comments about anyone who isn't "theirs". They give their opinions as wanna-be savants but when they're called out, suddenly they are just comedians.
We cannot overlook Hollywood's offerings. On Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Dec. 12, 1998, Alec Baldwin said “I’m thinking... we would all, right now, all of us together,... would go down to Washington and we would stone [Republican U.S. Representative] Henry Hyde to death! We would stone him to death! Wait!... Shut up! No, shut up! I’m not finished. We would stone Henry Hyde to death, and we would go to their homes and we’d kill their wives and their children. We would kill their families.” Liberals saw that as humor. Sane people saw it as hatred and incitant.
Moving on to real politicians, May 6, 2005, leader of the U.S. Senate, Harry Reid, spoke at Nevada's Del Sol High School and called (sitting) President George W. Bush a "loser". In September 2009 during President Obama's speech to Congress about his healthcare plan, Rep. Joe Wilson yelled "you lie". Hardly decorous.
Following Arizona's Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' January 2011 near-assassination, President Obama called for civility saying “Only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us.....” However in early September 2011 at a rally where President Obama was about to speak, Teamster Union leader James Hoffa bellowed “They (the Tea Party) got a war with us and there’s only going to be one winner.” He affirmed that organized labor enjoys “a good fight.” More famously he proudly introduced the president with: “President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. Let’s take these sons of bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong [sic].” President Barack Obama never did denounce those dangerous words.
Its often said that "we" do not know our history. How sad that this is the part we choose to keep and practice.
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