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A Brief History of Down-and-Dirty Political Insults

Because hurling a few low-blows at your opponent is an American tradition.



Photo: James Steidl / iStockPhoto | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012

Election season is a time for alcohol, politically charged tweets, and endless internet memes, but best of all, it’s a time marked by serious and frequent smackdowns. Clean races have been nonexistent since…well, forever, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Below, a list of some of the most random, moronic, and downright strange insults ever slung between competing political candidates and their camps.

Jefferson Supporters vs. John Quincy Adams
When George Washington ran for president of the United States in 1789, he won by a landslide – literally, getting 100% of the electoral votes - so complaints were virtually nonexistent. But during the election of 1796 things got dirty when GW declined to run, and was replaced on the ticket by his Vice President, John Adams. Supporters of the opposing candidate, Thomas Jefferson (you know, that guy with the kite), showed their "loyalty" to the incumbent Veep and founding father by accusing Adams of being a hermaphrodite. We can't help but wish today's mud-slingers had taken a few lessons from the original gangsters. Because that shit is hilarious.

Abraham Lincoln vs. The Media
When "Honest Abe" was running for president in 1860, much of society viewed him as kind of a hick, and therefore unfit to run the country. Even the supposedly objective media called him a "third-rate backwoods lawyer” and “a fourth-rate lecturer who can’t speak good grammar." (Seriously??) Disapproval eventually filtered down to the democrats, who chanted, “We want a statesman, not a rail-splitter, for president!” We’re not exactly sure what that means, but they'd probably feel pretty stupid if they knew the guy would later be portrayed by Daniel-Day Lewis in a movie directed by Steven Fucking Spielberg.

Thomas E. Dewey vs. Some Lady
Not many remember FDR’s republican running mate, Thomas E. Dewey, from the election of 1944 – mostly because 1944 was like 100 years ago and no one remembers it, period. But he was around, and he was insulted. A lot. Particularly about his short stature, thanks to some random woman at that year's Republican convention, who proclaimed that the candidate looked like the little tuxedo man at the top of a wedding cake. And to think, if it weren't for that remark, we might have nothing to say about Thomas E. Dewey. At all. Like, zero.

Lady Astor vs. Winston Churchill
Jumping across the pond, in 1919 Lady Astor became the first female member of Parliament, where she served for more than 20 years, working alongside the infamous Winston Churchill. The two frequently butted heads when it came to politics, despite the fact that both belonged to the same party, and both had a natural talent for hurling witty insults. In one famous anecdote, Lady Astor asserted, "Sir, if you were my husband, I would poison your drink,” to which Churchill replied, "Madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it.” Oh snap!


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