By Wendy Young |
As the natives of a relatively young nation, Americans don't have an especially strong sense of history. Recently I saw a list of players that baseball fans considered the best of all time. Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Cal Ripken, Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, and Bob Gibson deservedly made the list. The recent steroid all stars were also well represented. Conspicuous by their absence were stars like Walter "Big Train" Johnson, Hank Greenberg, Satchel Page, Josh Gibson, and other luminaries from the golden age of baseball. They are gone and forgotten by current fans.
The same lack of historical perspective extends to politics. The last presidential campaign is always the worst presidential campaign. The President Obama's and Mitt Romney's campaigns and their surrogates have given Americans many good reasons to be unhappy about the tone of the 2012 campaign. But is the 2012 presidential campaign any worse than the mud fest in 1800 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson? Probably not.
Jefferson's allies suggested that Adams, who was the political leader of our War of Independence, was a "monarchist," which was a fighting word in those days. Adams was arrogant and pretentious, but he certainly wasn't a "royalist." Describing Adams as a "monarchist" was as stupid as calling Barack Obama a socialist. A friend of mind once said to me, "I am a socialist, and believe me, Barack Obama is no socialist."
The allies of Adams weren't much better. They apparently missed the many references to God in the Declaration of Independence and branded Jefferson an atheist, which he clearly wasn't. Jefferson believed in God, he just didn't believe in churches. Adams's supporters went even further than that to say that Jefferson would close churches and burn Bibles if he became president. Well Jefferson served as president for eight years and there is no record of Jefferson or any member of his administration shutting down a place of worship or burning any book, much less the Bible.
Get a grip. The 2012 contest for the White House is a nasty and negative campaign. But it certainly isn't the worst. But you can bet, people will say that the 2016 race is.
About Brad Bannon President of Bannon Communications Research
Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College
Lara Brown Author of 'Jockeying for the American Presidency: The Political Opportunism of Aspirants'