Every election cycle we hear about how nasty the discourse of our politics has become. We also tend to hear that low-brow, negative attacks have reached all-new lows in an ever-descending discourse.
This video from Reason.tv shows that such talk is historically ill-informed. It shows that our current negativity is trumped by the election of 1800. The Federalist vs. the Democratic-Republicans, John Adams vs. Thomas Jefferson, was intensely personal and bitter. I would also add that politics throughout the preceding 1790s were exceedingly vicious. Further, the media was formed by bitterly partisan rival newspapers who openly fought for different positions/political parties.
The point is that the republic survived, even succeeded in such circumstances. As we argue for better political discourse, let us not get too apocalyptic about our future. We’ll survive these rancorous times and, as one side of the current divide begins to decisively win the argument, the partisanship will abate. Remember that the election of 1800 eventually gave way to the Era of Good Feelings.