Robert Kirby: A nasty presidential election isn’t exactly news — and never really was

Robert Kirby

As I listened to an after-dinner political debate between two friends, I realized just how naive most American voters are. Small wonder that we keep electing idiots for presidents.

The argument was over which candidate’s behavior was the more boorish and uncivilized as the clock winds down to Election Day. Toward the end, cursing and threats of violence spouted.

Here’s the weird part. The three of us have been friends for half a century. We’re almost brothers.

I’ve witnessed one of them give the other mouth-to-mouth resuscitation after a heart attack. And I know for a fact that they’ve lent each other large sums of money.

None of that matters when it comes to politics. One supports Donald Trump, the other Joe Biden. Both have reduced themselves to kindergarten logic in trying to get their astute political savvy over to the other.

During dinner, our three wives and I had to listen to political acumen expressed in the following manner.

  • “Hey, did you hear Pence has a fly on his head? Yeah, he has to unzip it when he visits the men’s room.”

  • “Well at least Pence’s hair is his own. Kamala’s hair is a wig. She could be hiding anything in there.”

It would be too easy to believe that political discussions have become this stupid over the course of time, that the ethics of presidential races, once honorably conducted, have descended to the manners of enraged pit bulls.

Only someone unfamiliar with historical politics, or a blithering sense of human nature, would think so. Elections, and the people who vote in them, have always been bad.

Consider this estimation of a presidential candidate’s worth printed in Harper’s Weekly:

“Filthy story-teller, ignoramus, despot, scoundrel, perjurer, liar, robber, thief, swindler, braggart, tyrant, buffoon, fiend, usurper, butcher, monster, and a land pirate.”

Sounds like someone talking about Trump, right?

Nope. The name-calling came more than 150 years ago and was aimed at Abraham Lincoln, who today is considered a president fine enough to build a monument to and grace our $5 bill.

Will we ever have a Trump Memorial? Beats me.

Andrew Jackson ran for office and became our seventh president. The following year, The Cincinnati Gazette, called his mom a skank.

“General Jackson’s mother was a common prostitute, brought to this country by the British soldiers! She afterwards married a mulatto man, with whom she had several children, of which number General Jackson is one!”

Was Barack Obama really our first Black president? Again, who knows? But Jackson managed to get his image on the $20 bill.

If that bothers you, consider that Alexander Hamilton, who adorns our $10 bill, was referred to by his opponent John Adams as a “bastard brat of a Scotch peddler.”

I could go on, but what would be the point? With the possible exception of religion and drugs, nothing brings out the nastiness in people quite like politics.

Be sure to vote. The way things are going, it won’t be long before doing so is considered a form of libel.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.