It is beginning to become humorous when people talk about going “back” to the politics of civility. The assumption is that there was a golden age where pols didn’t use hyperbole to bolster their ad hominem attacks and where bi-partisan support was the basis for the signing of bills.
When Andrew Jackson was President, the Senate torpedoed his nomination of Martin Van Buren as Ambassador to England over petty personal politics 24-23.
It wasn’t long after that, that the Supreme Court released its opinion in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia wherein, the Court denounced Georgia’s “anti-Cherokee” laws that prohibited white Missionaries from living on Cherokee lands. It was in response to this opinion that Jackson reportedly replied, “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.”
Like almost every recent President we have had, Andrew Jackson was an executive who increased the role of the Executive branch. When confronted with Supreme Court decisions that were antithetical to his Constitutional interpretation, he simply ignored them. This lead Senator Daniel Webster to give a speech on the Senate floor dubbing Andrew Jackson a “Despot.”
This was a relatively calm time in U.S. history. It was long after the Revolution and after the war of 1812. It was long before the Civil War. But there were still issues to disagree on, like there always are. And our leaders always did, and they did so passionately.
Today we hear about times when things were more civil, yet the only time Americans have ever been more civil with those on the other side of the aisle has been when either the two factions generally agree or when we were at war with a foreign nation and thus forced to stick together.
Think back to the impeachment vote in the Senate of later President Andrew Johnson by Thaddeus Stephen’s Republicans. That vote barely cleared.
The United States has always disagreed and we have done so vehemently. That may not be the way that things are supposed to be done, but it has always been the American way. This next election is going to get ugly. Romney isn’t going to pull any punches on the President’s dismal record. Obama’s campaign team isn’t going to pull any punches on Bain Capital, Mormonism or pets riding on cars. It will get ugly. You don’t have to like it, you may certainly advocate for a better way, but we cannot pretend that this is a recent development.