The History of Dirty Political Elections

Although it may seem like the 2016 Presidential Election is the worst that we have ever experienced, it is actually not even close. As we look back at the election years of the past, and historical elections around the globe, it is clear that politicians have never been shy when it comes to using dirty politics.

Celebrity Endorsements Were Used Back in the 1800s

Today, celebrities are often used to endorse candidates because they are capable of holding more sway with the public than anyone else. Back in 1836, the Whigs had the same type of influence, thanks in part to one popular member, Davy Crockett.

The two candidates in the 1836 presidential campaign were Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison. The Whig Party put together a strategy to portray Van Buren as effeminate and an elitist using a description that was given by the recently deceased Crockett, who is now considered a hero of the Alamo.

Davy Crockett described Van Buren as “laced up corsets such as a woman in town where…it would be difficult to say from personal appearance whether he was a man or woman but for the large red-and-gray whiskers.”

The Whig Party also used the same tactic during the next election, and were actually successful this time around, when Charles Ogle claimed that Van Buren “slept on fine French linens and ate from silver plates with forks of gold.”

The “Daisy” Attack Ad

During the 1964 Presidential Election, there was no one who could top Lyndon B. Johnson when it came to mudslinging. He had a special group of insiders at the White House known as the “5’O Clock Club”. Their main goal was finding new ways to smear the Republican candidate at the time, Barry Goldwater.

Their primary strategy was to portray Goldwater as a dangerous radical who was willing to start a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. They called him Dr. Strangewater, and came up with a unscientific, but highly effective study where 1,000 psychiatrists deemed Goldwater unfit to be the President of the United States.

Their most successful move was the Daisy ad, which was a political commercial that only ran one time, but it had a huge influence on the public. It showed a little girl counting flower petals, but when the count reached nine, the voice changed to a man counting down. The ad ended with a mushroom cloud reflected in the girl’s eyes when the counter reached zero.

The Pacific Scandal

The first Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald, served in office for 19 years, but his 1872 election was met with controversy and accusations of bribery.

In 1871, British Columbia agreed to become part of the Canadian Confederation. This agreement included the government building a new rail network that would connect British Columbia with other provinces. Macdonald awarded this elaborate deal to a syndicate that was led by Montreal entrepreneur Hugh Allan.
The Liberals were first to break the news that Allan had donated more than $350,000 to Macdonald’s election campaign. Plus, they also recovered several compromising letters that stated outright that the money was in exchange for the Canadian Pacific Railway contract.

This was the first political scandal in Canada’s history. Several months later, Macdonald was forced to resign. It didn’t affect him much however, he was elected as prime minister once again in 1878 and remained in power until he died in 1891.


The Most Fraudulent Election in History

Even though Liberia is a democratic republic, it was ruled by one party for more than a century. The True Whig Party was in power from 1878 to 1980. In 1920, a member of the party, Charles D.B. King became the new president of Liberia.

Seven years later, he competed in a presidential election against Thomas Faulkner. As expected, King won in a landslide. He received 235,000 votes while his opponent only received 9,000. There was just one problem with that count, Liberia only had 15,000 eligible voters.

To say that the election was rigged would be an understatement. In 1982, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized the 1927 Liberian election as one of the most fraudulent in history.

Instead of contesting the results of the election, Faulkner accused King of something even worse, government-sanctioned slave labor. The scandal suspended all US-Liberian relations and it was investigated by the League of Nations. In 1930, King and many other political leaders were forced to resign.


The Bob Casey Election

There are times when all you need in order to secure an election is to have the right name. That truly was the case with the “Bob Casey Election” which has been a mainstay in Pennsylvania politics for many years.

Robert Casey Sr. Served as the governor of Pennsylvania, the state senator and state auditor general. His son, Robert Casey Jr., is currently serving as US senator.

In 1976, Bob Casey Sr. finished his second term as auditor general. When he ran for state treasurer, he won in a landslide. But there was just one problem, this was a different Bob Casey. He did practically no campaigning, and spent less than $1,000, yet he was able to win the election based on his name recognition alone. He lost reelection when the Republican party ran a “Casey isn’t Casey” campaign.

However, the strategy worked again just two years later when a third Robert Casey entered into politics. He won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, again without spending or campaigning. When the actual Bob Casey became governor in 1986, he billed himself as the “real Bob Casey” in order to avoid any further confusion.