The blog Political Wire featured Anything for a Vote today--in particular, a portion of my Top Ten list of the dirtiest elections of all time. The only difficulty I had putting that list together, of course, was knowing when to stop. I kept saying to myself, so many dirty elections, so little time. I mean, there have been 56 presidential elections in U.S. history, and the first list I made up, which was impossibly unwieldy, listed 18 really, really dirty ones. Not that the rest were that clean, either, but I had to draw the line somewhere.
I became gripped by a kind of madness as I was writing the book. People shied away from me at parties--Good Christ, here he comes, Sheila, quick, hide!--because I was bubbling with a volcanic slurry of anecdotes.
"Uh, Sheila," I'd say. "Listen, do you know that in 1800 the Federalists stole votes from Thomas Jefferson simply by claiming that he was dead? Isn't that simplicity itself? He's dead! You can't vote for him! Of course, it wasn't true, but--how elegant!"
Sheila would disappear, to be replaced by some panicked-looking stranger.
"What did you say your name was again? Forget it. Listen: Lewis Cass ran as Democratic candidate for president in 1848--one of the most obscure presidential nominees of all times. The Whig candidate Zachary Taylor beat him. But, listen, where are you going? Cass was a really nice guy, and smart--former governor of the great state of Michigan--but his name rhymes with "ass" and "gas!" Get it? The Whigs had a field day. He was depicted in editorial cartoon as "General Gass" with cannon sticking out of his butt firing noxious fumes, or as "The Gas Bag," with a huge rear end, lifting off into the sky. Wouldn't it be great if they did that to someone these days? I mean, not great, but it would be sort of...oh, okay. Yeah, I have to go, too."
I've calmed down since then, but only somewhat. 13 months from Election Day, I feel a really dirty election coming on. I hope it'll make my Top Ten list.