U.S. Politics Has Always Had a Dirty Side
But being a jerk rarely makes a winner.
You’re familiar with the type—the dark, Jaws-like music, the deep, conspiratorial or booming accusing voice warning you, dear citizen, about some horrific evil pertaining to one political candidate or another. From Lyndon B. Johnson’s infamous “Daisy” ad against Barry Goldwater in 1964 to Walter Mondale’s inept version of the same theme in 1984 and Ted Cruz’s recent “Playing Trump” piece, it’s second nature for many seeking office to throw as much mud as they can at their opponent, often claiming wide-eyed shock as they “unveil” some unsavory character or act.The first known TV spot aimed at the heart of a politician is this animated doozy from 1952, in which Democratic presidential candidate and Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson attempts to skewer the Republicans as double talkers—a gambit that failed, as he was handily defeated by Dwight D. Eisenhower. It also sets a tone showing that while negative ads are popular, they are not always effective and can often lead to the attacker being the one to wipe mud off their face. The Internet age, extreme party polarization, and widespread growth of super PACs has brought these often-exaggerated or even flat-out dishonest assaults to new levels of WTF. And they certainly show no sign of slowing down, as some candidates base their whole campaign on hurling barely intelligible insults at their fellow presidential hopefuls. And journalists. And women. And ethnic groups. And anyone else who looks as though they may stand between them and their goals.With the proliferation of shock jock-style reality TV, it’s yet to be seen if this is a tactic that will bear the ultimate fruit of the presidency. But for the naysayers it’s been a scary election cycle, as some manage to ride their wave of rhetoric-filled hot air over the brow-beaten heads of likely more competent candidates. We reimagined what one of these ads would be like back in the days of our Founding Fathers, when George Washington bore the brunt of certain dissenting factions’ ire. Watch it above.