DimWit Politics

Ugly Politics is Not New … It’s Normal

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Ugly Politics is Not New … It’s Normal

Ugly Politics is Not New … It’s Normal
October 02
18:40 2018

Perhaps it is my age or my love of American history – or both – but I am repeatedly dismayed by so much of the reporting that suggests a uniqueness of current events when our history books are filled with earlier examples.

We hear a lot about the breakdown in civility among the political class in today’s Washington. Media commentaries often begin with such phrases as “never before” and “for the first time in history.” At times it seems that the adjective “unprecedented” appears in every sentence.

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If you think things are bad today, consider how John Adams described Alexander Hamilton in an 1806 letter. He said Hamilton’s ideas came “from a superabundance of secretions, which he could not find whores enough to draw off.” Ouch!

Hamilton shot back with “Adams is a man of an imagination sublimated and eccentric; propitious neither to the regular display of sound judgment, nor to steady perseverance in a systematic plan of conduct; and I began to perceive what has been since too manifest, that to this defect are added the unfortunate foibles of a vanity without bounds, and a jealousy capable of discoloring every object.”

Huh? Obviously, Hamilton was no better at a verbal duel than he was on the field of honor.

One might get the idea that Harry Truman was not very fond of Richard Nixon. Truman was not known for his eloquence – especially when searching for a good insult. According to Truman, “Richard Nixon is a no good, lying bastard. “He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, and if he ever caught himself telling the truth, he’d lie just to keep his hand in.”

I recall one of those television talking heads lamenting our loss of political civility. He compared what he saw as the harsh rhetoric of contemporary politics to the gentler discourse in the days of Abraham Lincoln – apparently oblivious to a Civil War that was tearing the nation apart. Perhaps he was dwelling on all those nasty insults leveled at President Trump by the left-wing media on a 24/7 cycle. But, probably not.

If we were to longingly harken back to those days of alleged civility, we might consider what Marcus Pomeroy, editor of the La Crosse, Wisconsin Democrat, wrote about the re-election of Lincoln in 1864. In case you missed it, Pomeroy described Lincoln as a, “… fungus from the corrupt womb of bigotry and fanaticism.”

He went on to describe our beloved 16th President as the “… worse tyrant and more inhuman butcher than has existed since the days of Nero.”

In thinking about any who might support Lincoln, the 19th Century partisan journalist wrote: “The man who votes for Lincoln now is a traitor and murderer.” That makes Hilary Clinton describing Trump supporters 153 years later as a “basket of deplorables” down right courteous. I mean, a traitor? A murder? Just because you voted for a President?

But even those statements pale compared to what Pomeroy hoped would happen if Lincoln should win re-election. “And if he is elected to misgovern for another four years, we trust some bold hand will pierce his heart with dagger point for the public good.” Nothing less than a call for assassination. (One can only wonder how Pomeroy felt when Lincoln was assassinated.)

Just in case you think Lincoln was a shrinking violet in the face of such verbal hostility, you need to how he took down his rather loquacious nemesis, Stephen Douglas, with a first-class zinger. Honest Abe declared that Douglas’ ideas were “as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death.” Now, that man knew how to insult.

If you compare Pomeroy to today’s left-wingers wishing harm on Trump’s 11-year-old son, or taking a formal photograph holding a severed head of the President a la Salome with John the Baptist or describing a candidate for the Supreme Court as consummate “evil, ” you could come to the conclusion that times are NOT a’changin’ all that much. But, at least they are only assassinating character – so far.

German Professor Martin Jehne assures us that, “invectivity — our artificial term for the whole complex of insulting, abusing, defaming, discriminating and so on — is a universal feature in human societies.”

Political insults are no worse today in America than they were in other times and other places. It is just more popular in politics.

About Author

Larry Horist

Larry Horist

Larry Horist is a conservative activist with an extensive background in economics, public policy and politics. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman, as well as the White House. He has testified as an expert witness before legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress, and lectured at major colleges and universities. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He can be reached at lph@thomasandjoyce.com.

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  1. Jeff
    Jeff October 03, 21:56

    Sherman’s march to the sea. Sheridan in the Shenandoah. War against civilians throughout the South. All on Lincoln’s orders. War Criminal! All because 75% of federal income came from southern tariffs, and Dishonest Abe would not let it go.

    Reply to this comment
  2. marby3
    marby3 October 03, 23:27

    Ugly is one thing but what they have stooped to is morbidly immoral.

    Reply to this comment
  3. marby3
    marby3 October 03, 23:31

    Ugly is one thing but they’ve stooped to morally unconscionable.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Buck
    Buck October 04, 00:28

    You stated 1806 letter….Wasn’t Hamilton Killed In 1804…??

    Reply to this comment
  5. Cochise
    Cochise October 04, 00:31

    You stated that John Adams mentioned Hamilton in a 1806 Letter…Hamilton answered back…But my question is How….Hamilton was Killed in July,1804…

    Reply to this comment
  6. NavyJR
    NavyJR October 04, 03:45

    Guess they never heard about the physical brawls in Congress either, or the battle between Jefferson and Adams that got so heated and ugly that they didn’t speak to each other for decades. Ah yes, those “kinder and gentler” days of politics… in your DREAMS!

    Reply to this comment
  7. el Dorko
    el Dorko October 04, 07:04

    You are correct, but today is today. And one might think that in 200 plus years we might have evolved. Nope. We haven’t.

    Reply to this comment
  8. El Supremo
    El Supremo October 04, 11:15

    Yesterday I bought “The Field of Blood. Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War,” Joanne B. Freeman. Title explains the content. Excellent writer using an important primary source.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Wmhark
    Wmhark October 04, 12:36

    I’m sure that this article is true to the letter, but it doesn’t make the practice any less distasteful. On the other hand, some people just need to be insulted due to their extreme stupidity and/or arrogance.

    Reply to this comment
  10. TxNanny
    TxNanny October 04, 14:19

    This was very enlighting! This should be circulated more widely, however, I don’t think it would affect the correct smear campaign that much. With the advent of Social Media, too many people are eager to get their opinions out there.

    Reply to this comment

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