Well, the primaries are in full swing, and the more intense things get, the more we hear the political invective hurled about. I’ve heard a lot of people say how nasty politicians are, and, of course, whenever that comes up, someone says something like, “It’s not like it used to be.” (See previous blog about “The Good Old Days)
Well, it’s a good thing that it’s not like it used to be. I would recommend a look at William Safire’s Political Dictionary. In the section on invective, political, he talks about John Randolph, who was a Representative from Virginia from 1799 – 1829. Safire considers him the father of political invective in America. Of course, political invective can be traced back so much farther–the ancient Greeks and the Romans, most notably. Back to John Randolph, who, when discussing one Edward Livingstone, who later became Secretary of State, described him as brilliant and corrupt, saying, “He’s like a rotten mackerel in the moonlight: he shines and stinks.” Well, if you want to dish it out, you better take it. Tristram Burgess of Rhode Island, heard a rumor that Randolph was impotent, and felt compelled to say, “I rejoice that the father of lies can never become the father of liars.” Ouch.
So, when we hear our politicos tossing the nasties back and forth, remember, it’s all part of a long heritage in politics.