Have you seen the latest tweets from President Donald Trump about the Democrats’ 2020 hopefuls?
Regarding Elizabeth Warren: “We would see our wives and daughters the victims of legal prostitution,” in her presidency and “murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest (would) openly be taught and practiced.”
He’s even worse about Pete Buttigieg: “A hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force nor firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”
Oh, wait, Trump didn’t say those nasty things. Thomas Jefferson was the target of the accusations of lawlessness and John Adams of those on his lack of snips and snails or sugar and spice.
Welcome to Decision 1800.
The vitriolic quotes were cited by Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan writing at Fee.org. The authors went on to say:
“The reason the election of 1800 took such a vitriolic turn is that the stakes were so high. Would the nation remain with Federalist Adams for another four years, or would it shift to the Jeffersonian Democrats? The soul of the young republic was at stake.”
Their thesis is that we’re in no such crisis today and that current political vitriol is therefore out of both proportion and control.
Groucho Marx used to tell a story about Percy Hammond, who was a notably tough theater critic for the Chicago Tribune. The Marx Brothers’ vaudeville act was among Hammond’s targets.
As Groucho tells it during World War II, the Tribune lost its war correspondent so the editorial board and senior staff got together to pick a new one. Someone suggested Percy Hammond, to which Ring Lardner replied, “You can’t do that. Suppose he doesn’t like the war?”
“Everyone’s a critic” is an old saying. It’s only more recently that everyone has had the opportunity to self-publish their criticism to a fairly wide audience.
Fifty years or so ago, Marshall McLuhan predicted the electronic media would provide what he believed to be a cure for the buttoned-down era: a beneficial new tribalism — one that led us back to Eden (Yeah, brother) to a kind of global village.
McLuhan forgot that village life had its downside — as anyone who’s read Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” should know.
Libertarian and occultist Tarl Warwick has observed that the nature of modern media gives a false sense of personal connection to events — e.g. a shooting — that are really remote from us.
That’s one reason why the public falsely feels the sword of Damocles is always overhead. And that feeling is why the tribes take up pitchforks and go at each other over — and over and over.
And old media has followed new media through this wide gate.
Turn the page of this section and you’ll probably notice that the letters feature has become dominated by readers sniping at each other about political differences — often in terms that sound a lot like that Federalist and Democrat exchange from 1800.
“Hey,” someone will probably say, “You’ve swiped at people in your columns.”
True enough, but looking back I can say those whom I’ve critiqued a) have chosen to be “on stage” and 2) in my view, have tried to put one over on the public in some manner.
Which takes me to my departure from this page — with a door kindly left open by the Tribune to be an occasional contributor.
No matter what others might think to the contrary I’m not an ideologue — I’m a person of conservative bent who likes to write as a process and an end in itself.
Even when I was a “hired gun” writing pieces such as “Logging Safety in the Inland Northwest,” getting the words right was a rush.
Now, as B.B. King sang, “The thrill is gone.”
And why is that?
As I looked back over those columns, I also saw that following the news has meant circling back over — and over and over — the same old ground, leading me to ask, “Jane, how do you stop this crazy thing?”
Davies and Harrigan suggested, “Be nice to each other. ... This is the one thing ... that will not only make your own life better but will also make everyone’s lives better. And maybe, just maybe, it will come to make our politics better, too.”
That’s great — but it’s not compatible with the role of (semi) professional political counter-puncher.
All I can do is leave the treadmill.
And so, with thanks to the Lewiston Tribune — and to you, dear readers — adieu.
Hennigan, of Asotin, is an instructional technology administrator at Lewis-Clark State College. His email address is email@example.com.