Many of us in America see the founding fathers as more or less as a monolith of freedom and like-minded ideas, but nothing could be further from the truth. The best such example is the race of 1800.
In 1796 Adams and Jefferson ran for the Presidency, though Jefferson did not campaign. Adams, the Federalist in favor of bigger government, won and Jefferson, the nominee of the Democrat-Republican party, came in second. At that time the second place finisher became the Vice President. Though Jefferson had been a reluctant nominee in 1796 things changed when Adams signed into law the “Alien and Sedition Acts”, which was a direct attack on Freedom of Speech. Inspired by dissent Jefferson and James Madison wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and actively campaigned for the Presidency of 1800, one that became the standard barer for ugly politics.
Federalist newspapers claimed the election of Jefferson would cause the “teaching of MURDER, ROBBERY, RAPE, ADULTERY AND INCEST”. Talk about a biased media! Other accusations were that Jefferson would either turn churches into “temples of reason” or burn them down. Imagine, someone trying to turn church into places that valued logic and reason! The nerve!!!
So this fall while McCain and Obama and their friends outside their respective campaigns try to swift boat each other, remember this has been a part of our Presidential campaign process for about as long as we have had Presidential campaigns.