Election Red, White and Blues
Can we please have a rest until closer to November?
Good Grief! It got so that I was seriously thinking of just letting the phone ring–I never do that–until the machine picked up or the caller got tired–no caller I.D. here, Chatty Kathy, no screening of calls. In the end, I did not do that; I’m always worried that I might miss something or be accidentally rude (If I’m going to be rude, I’d rather be it on purpose). But, boy, it was a temptation when the political calls were tracking each other–Bam–Bam–Bamm–at lunchtime, at suppertime, Sunday afternoon, Monday morning, all of the above. Whoooee!
And the resemblance to Middle School social interaction was unnerving : He said this ; He did that; I’m smarter; He’s ugly; I’m going to….; He won’t….; This person likes me better; That person is on his side. Lordy, Lordy, you could tune in to this kind of stuff in any locker room in the country…with a comparable basis in fact and relevance. Could we please try to raise the level of public discourse somewhat above this juvenilia? Puts me in mind of an old saying by Abraham Lincoln, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
Some of these dudes should have just shut up. But that would be too much to ask, given that the means of communicating has expanded so amazingly. You’ve got your landline telephone, your cell phone, your Blackberry, your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your email, your “snail mail” box –filled with flyers–at the house or at the post office; there are posters on poles, posters in yards, posters at every intersection. The robo-calls and polls and testimonials are irritating to the maxxx; they always come in when you’ve got other things happening…or trying to.
I can’t speak of TV ads, since I don’t see them, but I can’t imagine that there is any relief to be found there. One radio report that I heard said that some “Super Pac” had spent 25 million on such advertising in one state. Whoooeee!
And that’s another thing…the names of these groups. Their names are all uplifting and patriotic and do-gooder-sounding but they get your attention almost solely to savagely attack anyone not in lock-step with them and them alone. Think you might like to have a view of your own? Think that there might be a question about the veracity and accuracy of the charges being made? Think that there might just be a “fly in the ointment” of the proposed miraculous solution? Forgetaboutit!
And yet…. And yet…..
When you get right down to brass tacks ( and brass knuckles too, at least figuratively speaking), there have been worse times in the political history of the republic. Oh yes, pretty ugly stuff.
George Washington may be just about the only President who escaped vilification and cruel rumors (though there were snide remarks about his expense accounts while commander of the Continental Army, the wine, you know). John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and their supporters verbally duked it out in the election of 1800, calling each other vicious names(“blind, bald, crippled toothless, hideous and hermaphroditical, seeking mistresses and to marry his son[--that would be John Quincy--]to the king’s daughter…”; “would bring murder, rape, robbery, adultery and incest to practice in the land …soaked with blood). Heck, Sen. Stephen Douglas called Abraham Lincoln, “a hatchet-faced nutmeg dealer”…and you thought he was just good at debating!
Probably the worst in terms of physical violence was the Sumner/Brooks Affair. Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was anti-slavery to the bone and made a vitriolic speech in 1856, ridiculing slave owners as pimps for “the harlot, Slavery” in the “Crime against Kansas” and calling Senators Andrew Brooks and Stephen Douglas–remember him?–. “noise-some, squat and nameless animal(s)”. Nice talk! Rep Preston Brooks of South Carolina, a cousin, took umbrage and proceeded to walk onto the floor of “the world’s greatest deliberative body” and beat Sumner with a wooden cane, nearly to death. Brooks resigned to avoid a censure resolution; his district re-elected him.
The advent of mass communication did not bring about a conversion to civility either. For example, the “Daisy” ad of the campaign in 1964 used a little girl and a flower leading into a nuclear count-down to slam Barry Goldwater as a warmonger (There was also a dust-up about him being born in Arizona when it was still Indian Territory. Was he really a citizen?). Michael Dukakis popping out of a tank was an object of ridicule. The patriotism, parentage and sexual proclivities of just about everybody have been called into question at one time or another; we didn’t all have to listen to it or see it so much, though.
Only eight months to go. Hang on to your hats.