I’ll hug your elephant, and you kiss my a**.
(Why did I self censor with asterisks, when each and every one of you know what ** means? Manners, I suppose.)
That said, this bit of doggerel was written on a card that I found among my late daddy’s papers. The poet was a yellow-dog Democrat who sent it to a recently converted Republican. As I recall, it was dated 1964.
Politics could get rough back then, but I swear today is worse. What has come to me during this campaign, mostly over the Internet, has been bitter, frightening and, more often than not, mean. I have listened to normally rational people obsess over birth certificates and tax returns. I have seen folks I admire judge candidates by their debate style, not by what they said. And I have seen crackpots, who no one I know would have a beer with, embraced by one side or the other because one side or the other wants to believe the drivel the crackpots spew.
I went into Tuesday’s election discouraged and disappointed, not by the candidates but by their supporters.
“Lord, deliver me from my disciples,” the playwright Oscar Wilde once said. I wish this crop of candidates had what it took to do the same.
It was a dismal situation.
Almost as bad as 1801.
The year 1801 came on the heels of 1800 (dates in history have a way of doing that), and in 1800 the supporters of presidential candidates went over the edge.
On one hand you had the folks who favored Thomas Jefferson, a varied bunch who called themselves Republicans but were closer in ideology and attitudes to the Democrats of today. Many among them were convinced that their opponents, John Adams and the Federalists, were preparing to send an army led by Alexander Hamilton to crush America’s infant democracy and impose upon the nation a European-style monarchy bought by and sold to the Bank of England.
On the other hand you had Adams and the Federalists, to whose ideology and economic theories modern Republicans trace their roots, who had among them some who were convinced that Jefferson was the antichrist and that he and his Republicans followers were the instrument of a French-controlled, secret, antidemocrat, atheistic cabal known as the Bavarian Illuminati.
The Republican press — for both sides argued their respective cases in party newspapers — spread lurid tales of how Adams and his supporters planned to send “subversive” aliens (which they would pick from a list of Jefferson supporters) back from whence they came and make sure that the ideas and opinions they espoused were silenced.
The Federalist press countered that Republicans intended to incite a French-style revolution in this country and set up guillotines in town squares across the nation. Soon, the streets would run with the blood of America’s “aristocrats,” who naturally were Federalists.
Reports that Jefferson had said things like “a little revolution now and then is a good thing” and that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” only fueled the fear.
(Can you imagine the Facebook postings such sayings would get today? More tea party posters than kitty cats.)
As the campaign got hotter and hotter, a Federalist congressman reportedly wrote his wife asking where she would like to go into exile if Jefferson was elected.
To bring this all to my point, the campaign of 1800 was just as full of bitterness, scare tactics, meanness and unsupported (and unsupportable) crackpot notions as the campaign to which we have just been subjected.
When Thomas Jefferson won, the losers were just as certain that the nation they wanted us to be was doomed.
It didn’t happen.
On a blustery day in March 1801, Thomas Jefferson delivered his first inaugural address. Although he spoke to his supporters, flushed with victory, what he said was also for the benefit of the losers, who were not in the audience but who would read his words in the days to come.
“We are all Republicans,” he told them. “We are all Federalists.”
Then he got to the point.
“If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is free to combat it.”
Since that day, despite many bumps in the road of reason, this nation has held close to what he said. Jefferson may have lacked the eloquence of the poet I found in Daddy’s papers, but they were singing from the same song sheet.
The election is over.
Some lost and are sad. Some won and are happy.
That is how democracy works.
Now, play nice and govern.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. This column was written before the election and not changed after it.