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Politics Used to be a Civil Affair – And Other Fairy Tales

It’s a common misconception that politics has become increasingly uncivil and was once an affair mainly for statesman. There is no doubt that hiding the unseemly side of politics has become increasingly difficult. The 24/7 news cycle with numerous national news channels endlessly regurgitating the same tidbits of dirt has falsely given the impression that dirty politics and scandal is something relatively new.

Consider these hallmarks of political civility from the past:

In this day of instant news, could you imagine Mike Huckabee campaigning against then-candidate Obama with a campaign slogan like “Give ‘em hell Mike?” Perhaps not but Harry Truman earned the slogan “Give ‘em Hell Harry” because of his direct quote while campaigning for John F. Kennedy. His quote, “If you vote for Nixon, you ought to go to hell!”

The lack of civility reaching backwards in American history is not reserved for the print media. One of the most memorable TV campaigns ads was sponsored by opponents of Barry Goldwater. The infamous images were of a child in a field of daisies disappearing in a mushroom cloud of an atomic blast. Goldwater’s opponent, Lyndon Johnson, won by landslide in 1964 and promptly turned Vietnam into a quagmire that this nation has yet to shake from its collective conscience.

The question from this little history lesson then is this – are we more civil now than before? The answer is no. Seems civility in politics has been about the same as long as man has been around.

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.”
Earnest Benn

“In war, you can only be killed once, but in politics, many times.”
Winston Churchill

“Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”
Ronald Reagan