You think this year's election is nasty? We're just amateurs compared to the Founding Fathers.
Take the election of 1800 – please! It pitted President John Adams for the Federalists against Vice President Thomas Jefferson for the Republicans (who were actually the forerunners of today's Democratic Party. It's complicated).
Adams accused Jefferson of playing footsie with the radicals in France who were sending people to the guillotine by the thousands (which was true), and Jefferson accused Adams of clapping people into prison for criticizing him (which was also true).
But all that was just a prelude to the main act after the election. The result was a tie. Jefferson got 73 electoral votes, and so did – not Adams, but Jefferson's own vice presidential running mate, Aaron Burr.
This result happened because of a peculiar system in the Electoral College. Each elector had two votes, and the man who got the most votes became president and the guy who came in next became vice president (a system that was changed two years later after they saw what a mess they'd made).
The Republicans blew it. Their Virginia electors thought a few New York electors would vote for somebody beside Burr, and the New York electors assumed the Virginia electors would do it, and the result was that nobody did.
So the decision was left to the lame duck House of Representatives, which was controlled by the Federalists. And a lot of them hated Jefferson so much, there was a lot of talk about voting for Burr out of spite.
But Alexander Hamilton, who had been Jefferson's political arch-enemy for years, put the kibosh on the idea. "If there is a man in this world I ought to hate, it is Jefferson," he wrote his friends in Congress. "But the public good must be paramount to every private consideration."
He still thought Jefferson was a hypocrite and political fanatic, but Burr was worse - "a cold-blooded Cataline, a profligate, a voluptuary, without doubt insolvent." Burr was capable of selling out the country to a foreign power, or starring a war for personal profit.
"For Heaven's sake," wrote Hamilton, "let not the Federalist Party be responsible for the elevation of this man!"
Hamilton's argument carried the day. Jefferson was elected, and Burr went on to shoot Hamilton and organize a conspiracy to create an independent country in what is now the Midwest and the Southwest, for which Jefferson had him arrested for treason. (He got off, thanks to Chief Justice John Marshall, who wanted to stick it to Jefferson.)
And now today's Republican Party – the party of Honest Abe, Teddy, Ike, and The Gipper - will assemble in Cleveland next week to nominate the most reprehensible candidate since Aaron Burr.
It would take ten columns to list all the reasons why he's unfit for this job: his bigotry, his ignorance, his narcissism, his insecurity, his boorishness, his vulgarity, the sadistic pleasure he takes in humiliating people in public - I could go on and on.
But it comes down to this: Our beloved country feels like it's coming apart right now. Do we really need this guy in the Oval Office pouring more fuel on the flames?
For Heaven's sake, let not the Republican Party be responsible for the elevation of this man.