Contrary to the common sentiment of today, the American media has pretty much always been fiercely partisan. In fact, the word “objective” didn’t really apply to journalism at large until late in the 20th century, following an era of particularly sensational news coverage aimed entirely at increasing circulation (sound familiar?).

If you think press coverage of President Trump or another candidate seems unfair now, it might do you some good to look into the coverage surrounding the 1800 election between President John Adams and Vice-President Thomas Jefferson. Although Jefferson would ultimately win, press outlets, on the lead up to the election, claimed that electing him would lead to a country where “murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will openly be taught and practiced.” Even Martha Washington was eventually dragged into the rhetoric when she told a clergyman that Jefferson was “one of the most detestable of mankind.” The statement went public back then without anyone even having to hack her emails. And if you think the dirty politics of the 1800 election was an isolated incident, it pays to remember that a mere four years later, another battle for the highest office in the land would result in Aaron Burr killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

The dirty-boxing went both ways in 1800, of course, as Jefferson had also hired a man named James Callendar to spread rumors about Adams, particularity about him wanting to start a war with France. Although it was untrue, the successful disinformation campaign would go on to win Jefferson a significant number of votes. The mud-slinging antics of Jefferson and Adams ran far deeper than this brief summary, but the point isn’t that politics should be brutal. The point is that, here in America, it’s always sort of felt like the world was in the balance during each election season, because those running for office benefit from creating that sense of urgency in the voting population.

Turn out to save your country from ruin! (Political flier for the 1800 election)

That’s an important bit of perspective to keep in mind when hearing the prominent rhetoric already bubbling to the surface of our next presidential election. President Trump and his staff have worked hard to frame the idea of his impeachment as an attempted coup (it’s worth noting that many referred to the 1800 election as a “revolution” as well). Of course, with a Republican controlled Senate, it’s all but impossible for Trump to actually be removed from office without the Democrats winning over a number of Republican votes (and as a result, Republican constituents). Remember, an impeachment is not removing a president from office. President Trump, like President Clinton, can (and might) be impeached in the near future — but that just starts another legal process akin to a trial of sorts that will very likely end in Trump’s favor.

So what’s the point? Well, to some, it’s holding a powerful man accountable for his actions, but to many more, it’s all about perception. An impeached president could be seen as less electable in 2020. But then, the effort could also backfire, bolstering Trump’s longstanding claims that there has been a conspiratorial witch hunt afoot since the day he stepped into the Oval Office.

Whether the impeachment effort hurts or helps Trump’s campaign is yet to be determined, but I can already say with some confidence that it’s had an appreciably negative effect on how Americans engage across political boundaries. Now, more than ever, Americans seem fortified in their positions — supporting individuals rather than parties, policies, or processes. As President Trump claims so regularly, if you don’t support him, you’re a “Never Trumper.” And as many on the internet are happy to point out, if you don’t oppose Trump specifically, you’re a “Trump Humper.” There’s no room anymore, it would seem, for anyone to land somewhere in between.


At the present solemn and momentous epoch, the only question to be asked by every American, laying his hand on his heart, is: “Shall I continue in allegiance to