Print Column: Winning Elections by Dividing Is Bad for Society


MINOT, N.D.—It’s a fashionable thing, particularly in election years, to bemoan the tone of modern politics.

I understand why—the word “obnoxious” may as well have been invented to describe desperate political campaigns raining down hyperbole and opprobrium on the electorate—but to describe this as a recent development is simply inaccurate.

Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, bitter political enemies at the dawn of our republic, used anonymous pamphlets and surrogates to accuse one another of sex scandals.

Famed Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero—the man responsible for the term “republic” in our modern language—was not above accusing his political rivals incest.

Even the sainted Abraham Lincoln wasn’t above unseemly political stratagems. Our 16th president, perhaps having learned a lesson from his 1858 Senate campaign loss to Stephen Douglas who used booze to buy votes, secretly bought a German-language newspaper which he then used to publish flattering articles about himself to help sway immigrant voters in the 1860 election. A campaign he won by defeating, among other opponents, Stephen Douglas.

Politics have always been thus.

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