Attack Politics Nothing New

Election of 1800Andrew Sullivan posts some reader quotes from the election of 1800, pitting John Adams against his ostensible vice president, Thomas Jefferson.  As those who have studied such things already knew, they aren’t pretty.

There are an alarming number that sound like they came straight from this election: Adams was mocked for being old. Jefferson was considered a man of the people despite coming from a wealthy background. Adams was considered “elite” despite having more humble beginnings. They are both criticized for having questionable associates.

If anything, I’d argue that our political campaigns have gotten much more congenial.  The main difference, aside from differing technology, is that people in 1800 seemed to take political attacks for what they were.  Now, everything is taken as if it’s a secret code standing in for something else, be it race, patriotism, age, or what have you.

Photo credit: National Park Service

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. sam says:

    And then there’s Andy Jackson and his wife…

  2. Bithead says:

    If anything, I’d argue that our political campaigns have gotten much more congenial. The main difference, aside from differing technology, is that people in 1800 seemed to take political attacks for what they were. Now, everything is taken as if it’s a secret code standing in for something else, be it race, patriotism, age, or what have you.

    I’d agree, here… with the addition that they take ift for secret code indicationg whatever will create a situation to which they can take the most politically effective defense.

  3. DL says:

    I suspect the main differences now are:

    1) we have a sophisticated efficient media working full time for one candidate – pretending it’s news.

    2) The voting populace has shifted from landowners to some form of government benificiaries.

    3) Voters are first propagandized into one way of thinking for years in the government schools.

    4) Character and statesmanship are not as valued in potential leaders.

    5)Political appointment is a lifetime event for most politicians.