Thursday, October 6, 2016

Political Rhetoric in the Late 1800s

Although Isaac Werner did not have a television or the internet, he too was bombarded with political rhetoric during presidential campaign seasons.  The above cartoon is from the St. John County Capital to which Isaac subscribed.  Most of the political cartoons they published used the image of Uncle Sam to represent the nation, and a depiction of a wealthy man to represent the imbalance in power of the wealthy in political decisions.  However, this cartoon depicts a senator and the president to express why the People's Party, representing farmers, miners, and other workers politically, was growing.  On the left a farmer shows how getting 40 cents a bushel for his wheat is less than what it costs to raise it. (See which compares 2016 with those low markets.)  On the right, striking factory workers are shown being fired upon by government troops.  (The government had also sanctioned the use--by such men as steel magnate Carnegie--of hired private armies like the Pinkertons to confront striking workers.)

In addition to political cartoons, campaign buttons were also used even prior to Isaac's time, although the cheap manufacture of flat discs with a straight pin came into use during his era, specifically in the 1896 presidential race between McKinley and Bryan, when the People's Party and the Democrats both nominated Bryan.  One button I found online read "In McKinley we trust; in Bryan we bust" dealing with their opposing views about the gold standard vs. bimetalism.  To read more interesting information visit "The Long Story Behind Presidential Campaign Buttons and Pins," by Elizabeth King in the May 17, 2016 issue of "Time Magazine."  Also interesting is the website on which very early campaign buttons are pictured for sale.

The earliest buttons were primarily purchased by supporters to wear the button of their favorite candidate.  These early buttons were expensive to make, so it was logical that supporters were more likely buyers or buttons were produced by the candidates for their supporters to wear.  In the 1960s the trend toward buttons made by private marketers increased.  On the Ron Wade website, the earliest "anti" buttons I found were from the Reagan-Carter era, and most humor was fairly gentle.  One more abrasive button read "Nutrition Quiz:  Which one is the vegetable?" with an image of a ketchup bottle and a cartoon of Reagan below the question.  Another read "Nancy gets red dresses; We get pink slips."  Lampooning Carter a button read "The Carter Special:  A little peanut butter; A lot of balony" [sic], and another depicted a peanut in top hat and cane and asked "Do you want a Nut in the White House?"  Certainly these aren't complimentary, but they don't reach the level of vulgarity that anti-Hillary buttons reached among vendors outside the Republican convention.  The parody of Trump's hair on buttons is more akin to the buttons of the 1960s.

However, dirty politics are not new, although in the past the mud was thrown by surrogates rather than by the candidates themselves.  The election of 1800 in which John Adams and Thomas Jefferson vied for the office of President is often named as the dirtiest.  A Connecticut newspaper wrote that if Jefferson were president "murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will openly be taught and practiced." In 1828 in the race between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson the abuse included slandering Jackson's wife.  In the Douglas-Lincoln debates, Douglas called Lincoln a drunk.

Not all dirty politics are Presidential nor national.  In fact, a race for Kansas state representative split Isaac's community.  In 1892, two men who lived within walking distance competed, one on the People's Party ticket and the other a Republican.  Although the People's Party candidate won easily throughout the district, in their home township he won by a single vote.  The old newspapers document the rancor of their campaigning.

Hatefulness, slanders, and misinformation is nothing new to politics, but the internet certainly spreads them faster!

1 comment:

The Blog Fodder said...

When governments order the military to shoot their own people, how is it that they stay in power? It is obvious they are not on the side of the populace but of the 1%. I guess I ask that question every election.