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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Election Ugliness

Election Ugliness

There’s about a thousand more months left before November and the end of this presidential election, and as awful as it’s been so far, I expect it will get even worse before it’s over. (Not that the nastiness will stop after the election. No matter the winner, a lot of people are going to be very unhappy.)

I thought it might be interesting to put things in historical perspective by highlighting other notoriously vicious presidential campaigns.


For instance, in the election of 1860, Stephen Douglas got personal, saying Abraham Lincoln was a “horrid-looking wretch, sooty and scoundrelly in aspect, a cross between the nutmeg dealer, the horse-swapper and the nightman.”

Meanwhile, Lincoln said of Douglas: “His argument is as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had been starved to death.”

1860 Election

Melania Trump took a lot of heat last week but not as much as Rachel Jackson in the election of 1828. John Quincy Adams’s campaign not only accused Andrew Jackson of being a despot and uneducated, they also viciously attacked Mrs. Jackson, a divorced woman who had previously been in an abusive marriage. Adams’s supporters called her a “dirty black wench”, a “convicted adulteress” and accused her of “open and notorious lewdness.”

RACHEL DONELSON JACKSON (1767-1828). Miniature by Louise C. Strobel.

(1767-1828). Miniature by Louise C. Strobel.

I don’t know how low the Trump-Clinton election season will go. Pretty low, I expect. But I wonder if it will top the election of 1800—the only occasion when a vice-president ran against the president he was currently serving with—Thomas Jefferson vs John Adams.

An Election Poster for Adams

An Election Poster for Adams

Thomas Jefferson said that John Adams had a “hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

Adams’ supporters countered with dire predictions of a Jeffersonian presidency: “Are you prepared to see your dwellings in flames… female chastity violated… children writhing on the pike? GREAT GOD OF COMPASSION AND JUSTICE, SHIELD MY COUNTRY FROM DESTRUCTION.”


Dogs and cats living together

Phew. It’s a good thing Jefferson didn’t get elected, huh? Oh … wait …

16 Responses to Election Ugliness

  1. mshatch says:

    So that means I don’t have to worry of Trump becomes our next
    president? Ah, good, I’ll just relax then…lol.

    Although really, that’s not that funny.

  2. It’s good to put this all in historical perspective, though it’s still a depressing and scary time.

  3. Those were nasty all right. I’m sure it will only get worse though.

  4. People are people, and politicians always politicians. . .I’m still waiting for the big surprise to happen as this invisible candidate pops up out of no where…not perfect but at least humane. Yeah, I might be waiting here on my chair a LONG time 😉

  5. We can always learn from history. It puts all things into perspective. Kennedy wasn’t attacked for “borrowing” his ideas from Jefferson. Of course, Kennedy did put an up-to-date spin on the language, and there were a few more years before the original “Ask not” speech and his.

    I’m sighing out here. Wishing I weren’t so jaded by our political so-called leaders. I’m not following either one of them anywhere.

  6. J E Oneil says:

    We really need a do-over on 2016. I’m really starting to agree with the bumper sticker I saw that was like an election sticker for a candidate. Except it said “Meteor 2016; just end it already”.

  7. Hilary says:

    Hi Dianne – thank goodness our Referendum is over – and I can mostly switch off about your election … it’s just horrible – these people are meant to be setting examples for the rest of us to follow … IF ONLY!

    Good luck – but I don’t want to know about any snarky sound bites – Joy’s sticker – is good!! Cheers Hilary

  8. Anna says:

    I hate to rub it in that I’m Canadian or we have a cute (sixteen year old) running our country… but I can’t stop myself. Good luck; and just in case, I’ll get the guest room ready. 😛

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  9. It is sad (and embarrassing as an American abroad) how our politics have devolved to such a point…

  10. Those were nasty and mean!

  11. ChemistKen says:

    And I used to think old time politicians were civil toward each other.

  12. Great history! We miss all of that…it just gets forgotten after election season is over. I can’t take the ugliness on Facebook. Every day, someone posts something about Hillary or Trump and every day, a fight breaks out in comments. I don’t even speak at all on it. It’s just not worth getting into it. I have my opinions and I’ll just keep them to myself (or share them with people who agree with me!).

  13. It’s both mildly comforting and wholly depressing to know that elections have always been bad. -_- But it does feel like this year is special. And it’s only going to get worse once the debates start.

  14. Wow, they really knew how to craft an original insult back then, didn’t they? I found them all pretty amusing–thanks for sharing!

    And I wish you all the best with your election. We Canadians are watching and holding our breath…

  15. Mina B. says:

    Oh my god! Wow! Ugly politics is quite timeless isn’t it.

    No matter how great/memorable these politicians were, the knew how to play dirty huh?

    Great post!