For students of political history, up-and-coming politicians or anyone watching the current election manipulations, "Anything For a Vote" will strike a chord.
Joseph Cummins tells in an easy-to-read style the history of presidential races with all the slander, mud-slinging, character assassination and vote-stealing from 1789 up to the present.
Early on, Cummins comments, "For anyone who loves the democratic process, it's reassuring to see how immediately and full-heartedly politicians in early America launched malicious attacks through handbills, pamphlets and articles in various party journals." In the modern day, this would the equivalent of the warring blogosphere.
Anyone who believes that the founders of the United States were the cardboard characters taught in boring American history courses should read how Alexander Hamilton tried to persuade electors not to vote for John Adams during the first election. They were in competition for the vice presidency since neither had a chance of winning over the undisputed leader, and two-time winner, George Washington.
Politics became personal very fast. In the 1828 election, a Republican pamphlet said Democrat Andrew Jackson was "a gambler, a cock fighter, a slave trader and the husband of a really fat wife," an insult for which he never forgave his opponents.
The Democrats struck back in 1844 calling Whig (to become the Republicans a decade later) candidate Henry Clay on his "supposed baggage train of gambling, dueling, womanizing and "By the Eternal!" swearing." Clay lost.
Coming up to the modern era, in 1972, voters received letters, "written on (Edmund) Muskie campaign stationary, stating (falsely) that Hubert Humphrey had been arrested for drunk driving in 1967." Both lost to Richard Nixon.
The Internet brought a new aspect to campaigning. In 2004, actress Jane Fonda, disliked for her `60s Vietnam War stance, was added to a 1971 photograph with (then-presidential candidate) John Kerry and the bogus picture circulated widely - and anonymously.
Everyone should remember that U.S. presidential politics has always been a dirty business and "Anything for a Vote" makes that entertainingly obvious. Hopefully, Cummins will update this book to include the dirty tricks of the upcoming 2008 election. _____ "Anything For A Vote: Dirty Tricks, Cheap Shots and October Surprises in U.S. Presidential Campaigns" by Joseph Cummins; Quirk Books ($16.95)