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Have election cycles become extreme sports?

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Unless you have been living under a rock or on another planet, you know that today is election day for the mid-terms in America. Many key Congressional races are happening across the country. There are many speculations as to who will gain control of Congress. There will probably be much heavier scrutiny on the transparency of ballot counting after claims of election stealing were levied after the 2020 elections.

Now, I am not here to discuss the merits or delve further into that discussion, but between the fallout of the 2020 elections, the partisan wrangling we are already seeing, and the constant blitz of attack ads, I can honestly say the political process has become something of an extreme sport.

Audio: Full discussion with Jeff Stein of KXEL, Iowa Politics Report, and Iowa Almanac.

Now for a brief history lesson for those of you who slept through the class. Intrigue is nothing new to the political spectrum.

Both John Adams and John Quincy Adams had to have their elections decided in the House of Representatives. John Adams lost to Thomas Jefferson in 1800 and his son John Quincy won in 1824. He managed that victory without securing either the general or the majority of the Electoral College. 1824 was the first widely contested election result, with Democrat Andrew Jackson claiming that he had been robbed of the victory. (It’s nothing new, is it?)

In 1855 an election was held in kanas to determine whether the state should enter as a free or slave state. The resulting border war with Missouri pro-slave holding residents led to the Bleeding Kansas era.

In 1860, the nomination of Abraham Lincoln split the Democrats into factions and all but sealed a majority for the newly formed Republican party candidate. This was one of the many catalysts that led to the question of the validity of states wanting to leave the union over political and social disagreements. (Again, I say only ONE of the many reasons.)

In 1888 incumbent President Grover Cleveland won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote to Benjamin Harrison. Cleveland would regain the White House in 1892.

In 1948 Lyndon B. Johnson looked to have lost his primary election to the Senate. However, 200 ballots were found at the last minute that gave Johnson an 87-vote victory.

The list goes on and on…

The 2000 election of George W. Bush.

The 2016 claims of Russian interference.

And 2020 was a fiasco from the caucuses to the primaries to the general election.

The point is that we are not without a history of political drama and election intrigue. Every generation has experienced it, and many have short-term memories and don’t remember that it is nothing new. However, why is it such an extremely turbulent time, and why has it become so much more intense?

Is it because the world is so much more closely connected that we are bombarded with it constantly and instantly? Is it because attack ads have all but wiped out any information about why we should vote for a particular candidate? I talked with KXEL’s Jeff Stein, a veteran of election coverage and the history of Iowa politics. He says it’s these attack ads that are really casting the negative shadow.

Also, if there is so much controversy in the history of American elections, why are they now seeming to be so much more prevalent? Stein says it is because we are more divided and there isn’t as much party loyalty.

The long and the short of it is that there has always been controversy. There have always been attack ads. The important thing is that you take the time to get properly informed and vote. The republic rides on our participation.

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