Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Of Atheists, Criminals, and Fools

The two candidates had been friends for years and had a long history of setting aside politics in favor of finding common ground for the benefit of the people whose interests they represented. They were intelligent, courageous visionaries although they had quite different temperaments and philosophies in many ways. While they were different in many ways, they seemed always to find a way to get along. They got along, that is, until they decided to run for the same political office.

During the campaign, one claimed that the other had such a weak character that he had neither the "firmness of a man" nor the "sensibility of a woman," asserting in very clear terms that his character had a decidedly hermaphroditic quality.

Not to be outdone, his opponent accused him of being a mean-spirited low-life whose mother was a "mixed-breed Indian squaw." His description of his father was equally insulting.

As the barbs amplified, one candidate claimed the other was a fool and a criminal while the second labeled the first as an atheist and a coward.

Finally, one of the candidates hired a henchman to smear his opponent which he did quite well. The other candidate said he wouldn't lower himself to that tactic. The hired political thug did such a good job his man won the election by a hair. While the operative's tactics were effective and damaging, they were also so slanderous that he ended up in jail for spreading them around. When the political muckraker was released from prison, he wasn't feeling the love from his former compadre, so he wrote a number of articles in which he claimed the successful candidate was having an affair with a woman who had given birth to five of his children! 

Isn't it difficult to imagine the President and Vice President of the United States locked into such a bitter and vicious political battle against each other, particularly since they had long been friends and political allies? It's hard to imagine, but it did happen. President John Adams and Vice President Thomas Jefferson eventually restored their relationship with each other, but it must have seemed a distant possibility during the presidential campaign of 1800.