Saturday, August 13, 2016

The History of Political Discourse (Part I)

Throughout American history civil political discourse has been non-existent for the most part. FDR was the first to use cleverly crafted messages (propaganda) to pit groups of Americans against each other. Today, this technique is a fixture in divisive American politics: war on women, rich versus poor, black versus white, and so forth. This technique is alive and well in the 2016 Presidential election. This explains why there is huge political divides in popular vote among certain demographic groups. Another common trick is to portray opponents as monsters capable of global genocide. The LBJ commercial showing Goldwater setting off nuclear weapons started this trend. Now we routinely compare everyone to Hitler without giving it a second thought.

Early American politics was not much different in terms of name calling and belligerent attitudes towards adversaries. Probably the most diabolical of all founding father era politicians is probably Aaron Burr. Burr was Thomas Jefferson’s vice president during his first term. Actually, the electoral vote in the 1800 election was a tie between Burr and Jefferson. A huge House fight ensued finally giving Jefferson the Presidency on the 34th ballot to break the tie. Burr bitterly accepted the vice presidential post.

Both Burr and Jefferson were Republicans, but it was their arch rival, a Federalist, Alexander Hamilton (Presently on the 20 dollar bill), who played a big role in deciding the election. Although Jefferson (Secretary of State) and Hamilton (Secretary of Treasury) were at odds during the Washington administration, Hamilton disliked Burr more. Both Hamilton and Burr were from New York and Hamilton’s bad mouthing of Burr did not help his cause to win the White House.

In 1804 a bitter Aaron Burr left his vice president post to run for Governor of New York. Burr lost and once again blamed it on the vitriol that came his way from Hamilton. Burr then killed Hamilton in a duel and fled the state to avoid possible murder charges. Along his flight to the West, Burr accumulated an army of nearly 100 soles to protect him. It is believed that Burr then colluded with James Wilkinson who held two roles – US Army General in charge of all American forces and Louisiana territory governor. The latter role was appointed by Jefferson on the advice of his vice president – Aaron Burr. Burr wanted to create a new country where he would be President and Wilkinson would be the leader of the Army. The new country would be somewhere in Spanish occupied North America (probably Texas) after they would unilaterally (without U.S. government consent) attack Spain and seize land.

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