Specifically, I want to talk about divisive partisanship. I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone claiming that we live in the most divisive political climate in American History. They say this with a straight face. My response, invariably, is a boisterous and confident "NUH UH!"
Let's take a quick look at the historical facts, starting with the race between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams in 1800. Two great men, right? What a world to live in, where you have a choice between two of the greatest politicians in American history. Surely such a race was civil and based on the facts and issues, and people knew they were in good hands no matter what, right?
Hell-to-the-No. It was just as bitter as any election you remember. According to one newspaper friendly to John Adams:
"If Thomas Jefferson wins, murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced. The air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes. Are you prepared to see your dwellings in flames, female chastity violated, and children writhing on a pike?"
|And then we built this.|
Exhibit B: May 20th, 1856. Senator Charles Sumner gives a speech on the Senate floor full of fiery invective against slavery and southern leadership. He said of one of his esteemed colleagues, "He has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight. I mean the harlot Slavery." Fellow Senator Preston Brooks took particular offense to his language and spoke up about it two days later. With his cane.
He literally beat Senator Sumner half to death until his cane broke from the force of the blows. That's some good old fashioned politics right there.
Speaking of slavery and the mid-1800s...
|This was a thing that happened in America|
Finally, I just want to point out that it's been about thirty-five years since the last time there was a politically-motivated assassination attempt on a politician in the U.S. I'm not counting that business with Reagan because "impressing Jodie Foster" isn't exactly a political movement. Oh, and it's also been a while since people were literally murdered for trying to register voters.
So when you see the terrible divisiveness that is rife in American politics today, please keep in mind that, in general, this is an improvement over the past. A vast improvement.