Compared to other US elections how nasty is this one ?

In another board a Bush supporter said that all elections are very divisive and that this one wasn’t any different. That the media makes it seem nastier than it really is. That in fact some were worse in the 60’s. My being a “young” 32 and this guy seemingly a middle aged guy I didn’t discuss it much :slight_smile:

Compared to other campaigns is the US nastily split ? How deep is this division really ? Once someone wins how much resentment will remain from the other side compared to other elections ?

I personally feel the US is badly divided... much more than ever before. Especially because its not a generational issue... or an economic issue... its Conservative America vs Progressive America. 

Bush is a divider... but how much ? Is it at all relevant ?

I’ve been following politics since the 1964 conventions (THAT was a fun election :eek: ) and once you get past the fact that there are several of us here who are VERY opinionated this is par for the course. Well, maybe a bit nastier than 1976 and 1980. Things had settled down by this time in 1968 to the Left hating ALL THREE major candidates (Nixon, Humphrey, and Wallace) so the actual campaigns were almost cordial, at least compared with the summer before ( :eek: :eek: ).

There has always been a divide between the Republicans and the Democrats. They switch orientations like the Earth’s magnetic poles switch polarities but they have always kept apart.

During the election of Thomas Jefferson people were told that if he were to be elected they had better hide their Bibles or they would be confiscated by the government.

I seem to vaguely recall that Herbert Hoover was hit by a tomato, or something similar, in the 1932 election campaign.

I heard someone from network news being interviewed the other night. He is about my age – early 60’s. He said that the election is more contentious than it has been since 1968. (Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated in June. There were brutal riots outside the Democratic Convention in Chicago, with most of the brutality on the part of the police. Hubert Humphrey was running against Richard Nixon during some of the worst of the Vietnam War when the country was torn apart.)

I think that in many ways the country is even more divided now. The people that I know who are opposed to Bush absolutely cannot understand why anyone would vote to reelect him. I know that I’m not following the reasoning of some of SDMB’s brightest Republicans, but to me it’s like hiring a CEO because she has big tits. BFD. We have confused the glory of the common many with the charm of an ordinary man who just happened to be born into wealth and politics.

And I would NOT say the same about McCain or Powell.

The first one I remember with any detail was '76, and neither Ford nor Carter inspired much hatred, although people took out some of their anger on Nixon via Ford and his pardoning of him before the election (and he made lots of Polish-Americans pretty unhappy too :D)

I remember some nasty anti-Dukakis stuff, especially since by then I was working for the MA Sec of State and had to field rumors about him and the state in general (no, he didn’t designate a state witch; no, the furlough law was passed years ago by a Republican governor, not him; no, he didn’t say saying the Pledge should be illegal), but it wasn’t as bad as the '84 election, with people going around convinced Reagan was going to get us all nuked.

And of course, compared to some of the nineteenth-century and early twentieth century elections this is all a tea party. Politicans don’t use insults about their opponents like they used to. It’s all veiled. Plus there is less indignant brandishing of canes and hats. :wink:

However, I don’t recall the sheer moral indignation we see now ever happening. You may have been misled if you were a Reagan voter but evil? Wanting to see the planet destroyed? A dupe of…uh…what was the group that kept lobbying for the nuclear holocaust again? You didn’t really hear that.

I think it’s part of the same breakdown in civitas that lets people feel fine throwing their garbage out of car windows and blasting obscene songs and using obscene speech even if there’s five nuns sitting on the subway next to you with orphans on their laps. I’m the center of the universe and my beliefs are right–if you can’t see that, you’re not just misinformed, or duped, oh no, you must be eeeevil!

And I see this on both sides, including my own. Sigh.

Lots of elections are nasty when it comes to politicians attacking each other, but this one is the nastiest I’ve seen in my lifetime in terms of the public debate. I think it’s very close to 1968 in terms of the divisiveness in public discourse, but I’m a little too young to remember that one.

This year seems really bad. There is extreme and justified hatred for Bush on the one side, yet blind and unjustified devotion on the other.

Yeah, I’m against Bush and cannot comprehend why anyone would vote for him. I can understand why people would vote for just about any other candidate since WWII, but not this guy.

No, can’t.

The 1968 election was full of violence, but the hatred was one-sided. The liberals opposed the Vietnam War, but they didn’t hate the conservatives; OTOH, the conservatives hated the liberals.

By “hated”, I mean that their speeches and pitches weren’t focused on the ideas but on the people – “long-haired drug-taking hippy freaks”. In contrast, the liberals were focused on the idea of the Vietnam war being wrong, but IIRC there weren’t any condemnations of the short-hair life style. There was some condemnation of the military, for lying through its teeth, and a small minority focused that on veterans, but even that was focused on soldiers for the profession, not for their politics.

There were dirty tricks in the 1972 election, of course, with serious repercussions.

In contrast, I find that in the current election, we have speeches that are full of hatred, on both sides. The attacks are against the PEOPLE – both the candidates and their supporters – and not against their ideas. As far as I can see, that makes this the most divisive election I’ve seen.

If you attack the ideas, then if you lose, you can still support the government, even though you don’t support their ideas. If you attack the people, then how can you possible support their government? If the people are crooks and liars and deceivers, then how can you support them just because they hold office? I fear for the future, whoever wins. (I also seem to remember that one candidate from the 2000 election promised to be a “uniter” and unite the country, but that was a long time ago, and since I’m an American voter, I have no memory.)

You apparently are too young to remember the absolute NEED for Ladybird’s anti-littering campaign. Streets these days are SPOTLESS compared with forty years ago.

And you don’t remember the Daisy Girl Ad. My point is that campaigns have been as bad or worse all along.

Jacob Sullum has an essay in last month’s Reason talking about Comedy Central’s Crossballs show. His argument is that the reason the guests often don’t tumble to the fact that it’s a joke, no matter how far over the top the ringer “debaters” go, is that the antics fit their mental mental image of the opposition as, ipso facto, lunatics.

snickering Oh, NO! Nothing like THAT, Mr Jones. :rolleyes: Dex, where were YOU in ‘68–stuck in one of those little boxes? I mean, even the bleedin’ Monkees did a lifestyle-based protest song. Hell’s bells, depending on how serious a person’s revolutionary spirit was we either made fun of or condemned the “short hair lifestyle” ALL THE TIME. But you are right. It usually wasn’t hate. It was usually derision.

I was in junior high during the '68 election, but I remember it pretty well. It was way nastier than this one. There were literally riots in the streets. But both elections (this one and the one in '68) were held as referendums on a war. People get pretty riled up over that issue, especially when the war is an elective one. I wasn’t around during the Korean war, so I have no idea what things were like then.

I would say this campaign is several orders of magnitude higher in nastiness than any I have ever seen. In no other campaign that I can recall, people actually have contempt for those voting for the other side. The war in Iraq has divided the nation like nothing since the Civil War. You tell me how you feel about the war, I’ll tell you who you’re going to vote for. It’s just that simple. It’s like we’ve all become a nation of single-issue voters. You either think that Bush is God’s gift to humanity or you think he is the devil incarnate. There just doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.

You’re wrong. Like I said, in '68 there were riots in the streets. Not protests, RIOTS.

I don’t think Bush is either God’s gift to humanity or the devil incarnate. You are confusing the thoughts expressed here on the SDMB (and possibly what you see on 24 hr news channels) with the electorate at large. It’s only the fringes of both sides that believe the other side is evil.

As I recall, and I was in 7th grade at the time, that the riots in Chicago were people that felt cheated that Humphrey “stole” the nomination from McCarthy. I don’t recall unrest after that time, at least as far as the election goes. Sure, there were anti-war riots on many campuses, but I don’t believe the protesters hated Nixon nearly as much as Democrats hate Bush and Republicans hate Kerry. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

Well, perhaps one thing we can all agree on is that to a large extent Bush fulfilled our expectations.

If it’s decisive, undoubtedly there will be a whole lot of griping but one side or the other will swallow the bitter pill and then come out swinging after the inauguration. If it’s as close as 2000 it’s going to be really bad. If it’s as close as 2000 and it’s Florida again, I think I’ll stay off of I-95 for the duration.

I’m against the war…who am I going to vote for Bob? :slight_smile:

As to the OP, there have been several nastier elections. I think this one will rank in the top 10, but it won’t be number 1. Part of the problem is, even before 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq…hell, even before the screwed up election in 2000 and Florida people were starting to divide over Bush. I remember many of my liberal friends beginning to tell dire tales of Roe vs Wade being over turned, a new fundamentalist presidency, blah blah blah…and this was before the election! As each of the major events of this presidency unfolded (and I think everyone has to admit…a LOT has happened in this presidency), the polarizaiton continued and grew more defined…and more intolerant. I’m not going to get into whether the intolerance is right or wrong…but you’d need to be blind not to see it.

All that said, I think the Democrats and others opposed to Bush WANT this to be seen as the nastiest, most vicious election ever in US history…for spin reasons. Just like they WANT the economy to be seen as the worst ever, etc etc. Its a good tactic. Unfortunately the facts just don’t support it. I recall some of the things said about Madison and Jefferson by their political rivals…and THIS stuff is not even in the same league with that. I lived through most of the 60’s and recall the '68 election and the '72…no way does this compare. Hell, Reagan’s re-election was pretty nasty for that matter…and so was Clinton’s.


The rhetoric is similar to the Reagan years. That was when Reagan was a mindless cowboy who was going to trigger nuclear Armaggedon.

There is a lot more paranoia, at least on the SDMB. I think some people are serious when they talk about bizarre stuff like cancelling the election or instituting state religion.

On the other hand, I am sure some are serious in thinking that Kerry will ban the Bible or whatever.

I think the problem is that any support for the other side is considered an extremist position. The bad faith of your opponent seems to be assumed. We can’t just disagree because we see things differently - it must be because you are stupid and corrupt. (Generic you).

It is an extreme example of what we have seen in the past. I wonder if it might be partly because Kerry is a Viet Nam vet, and people would like Iraq to be regarded as Viet Nam was. Old habits die hard.


I think it’s more due to the moralization of politics. The public discourse is rarely about whether a policy is successful or unsuccessful; it is about whether a policy is evil or beatific. This started with the Left in the '60’s, and was picked up by the Right as well in the '80’s. And so what you have now is a situation where you can’t talk about policies or ideas rationally because people are so wrapped up in proving their morality through their politics.

Want to loosen standards on the enivronment? Then you’re an evil industrialist who enjoys seeing children choke on pollution because it makes you money. Want to raise standards? Then you’re a stupid hippy who wants to destroy American jobs because a flower makes him cry. Medicare and Social Security need revamping? You’re a heartless bastard who wants the poor and elderly to get sick and die. Not firmly behind American pre-emptory foreign policy? You’re a gutless wonder who cheered when terrorists blew up the WTC.

Why did this happen? I think for several reasons. First, we’re deluged by issues. What’s this election about? Environment? Social Security? Medicare? Iraq? Future foreign policy? Defense spending? Abortion? Etc.? With forty or fifty issues to try and juggle, and limited time to devote to any of them- both for voters to be informed and for the candidates to address- it becomes easier on everyone to drop to simplistic answers. And nothing’s more simplistic than simply making it a moral question. Most social spending issues, after all, are a matter of priority. Everyone fervently wants hunger, poverty, and sickness to go away; it’s a question of how government applies limited resources to the issue. But that becomes a technical and detailed discussion; it’s easier (though neither helpfull nor healthy) to drop these issues to morality: “You want to take away my hard-earned cash to give to people who could just get a damned job.” “You’re a heartless bastard who likes to see children starve.” Read over any of the Medicare debates of the '90’s for good examples.

Second: We desperately want to be right, and showing that our opponents are dead wrong de facto proves us right. Obviously fallacious, but people cling to it. Read the Reason article cited above, or watch how many people on forums- even this one- post 'me too’s to outlandish crap about Kerry or Bush. By proving that the enemy are devils, we think we put ourselves on the sides of the angels. That really ties into the intertwining of morality and politics that grew out of the '60’s. And therefore, scurrlious politicians who drape themselves in the innate morality of their positions gather money and votes from people who want to believe that they, too, are moral. See: Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh, etc.

As a result, things get very nasty. After all, if you’re fighting ultimate evil, why should you pull any punches? Add to this an innate sense of entitlement- “I’m right, therefore I don’t need to be polite or concilliatory”- and that’s why this election, like '68, is so horrid.