Loyal Opposition

Have we lost the concept of loyal opposition? When does “they fail” become “we all fail?”

Or, have we just forgotten our history and politics was always thus? Always thus, it seems.

Here’s a bit from an interview in the Freakonomics blog with Joseph Cummins, author of Anything for a Vote: Dirty Tricks, Cheap Shots, and October Surprises. Cummins said:

In 1840, the American Whig politician Thomas Elder had a eureka moment when he wrote to a friend: “Passion and prejudice properly aroused and directed do about as well as principle and reason in any party contest.”

My favorite, the accusation that Martin Van Buren wore a corset delivered by Davey Crockett. This piece of trivia pales next to Cummins’ discussion of the dirtiest campaign, that of Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwater.

The article, published Nov. 7, 2007, a year prior to President Obama’s election, is great, retrospective reading, including the historical references to the bold nature of journalistic electioneering in the late 1800s. It doesn’t take much to think who today has pried that casket open and let out the bats.


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