Hooray… it’s finally time to vote, and luckily times have changed since pre-Revolutionary days when only white males who owned property could cast a ballot. So let’s proudly get out there and go for it! But does anyone think this was the dirtiest presidential campaign ever? Are you tired of all the name calling? Convinced that special interest groups have spent more money than ever before to spread lies and to buy your vote? Think again….’twas ever thus.
As for name calling, that’s been going on ever since the U.S. of A. became a nation. Thomas Jefferson secretly hired a Scottish scandal monger named James Callender to write scurrilous tales about John Adams, so Callender obligingly called Adams a repulsive, hideous, mentally deranged hermaphrodite who wanted to crown himself king. (Later Callender got so mad at Jefferson that he printed the story of Jefferson’s affair with his slave, Sally Hemings.) To carry on this interesting tradition, during the 1837 election, Davy Crockett accused Martin Van Buren of wearing women’s corsets, in 1861 Abraham Lincoln was accused of having stinky feet, and Teddy Roosevelt called William Howard Taft “a rat in the corner.”
During the 1880’s, presidential candidates and their backers were infamous for their dirty tricks. In order to buy votes, Republicans sent a bunch of guys nicknamed “Soapy Sams” to grease the voters’ palms by passing out hundreds of thousands of dollars in two dollar bills. In 1828, partisans of incumbent president John Quincy Adams and his challenger, Andrew Jackson, had lots of fun accusing the candidates of just about any false charge they could dream up. Jackson had murdered 6 militiamen, they claimed! He suffered from an uncontrollable temper! And he committed adultery too! Then they said John Quincy Adams was a pimp who procured an American woman for the Russian Czar. And what's more, they accused him of using government money to buy a billiards table for the White House (oh, shameful game)!
A dirty presidential election in 1876 planted Rutherford B. Hayes in the White House under some highly questionable circumstances. The race was vicious from the start; Hayes’ opponent, “Honest Sam Tilden” was accused of making dishonest railroad deals and was mocked big-time because he never served in the Civil War. Samuel Tilden readily won the popular vote anyway, but due to some sneaky calculations and other shenanigans by the opposition, he came up one vote short of winning the electoral vote. Because Republicans controlled the US Senate and Democrats controlled the House, Congress set up an Electoral Commission that allowed seven Democrats and seven Republicans to decide the result. But since the tie-breaking 15th member was a Republican Supreme Court Justice, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes was declared the winner. Thereafter he was jeeringly nicknamed "Rutherfraud" B. Hayes and "His Fraudulency."
More recently, Lyndon Johnson supposedly created a group of 16 pols called “The Five O’clock Club” to make his opponent, Barry Goldwater, look bad. In a flash, they came up with an anti-Goldwater joke book called You Can Die Laughing and a coloring book that let kids color in a picture of Goldwater dressed like a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
And then there’s the infamous political trickster named Dick Tuck. Back in 1968 when Richard Nixon was running for president, Tuck paid a very pregnant black woman to roam around at a Nixon rally in a white neighborhood while wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Nixon’s campaign slogan. It said "Nixon's the One!"
I’m sorry to report that there’s plenty more where that came from, but may the cream rise to the top anyway. See you later, my fellow Americans—I have to GO VOTE! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !