Which presidential candidate in the United States supposedly described their opponent as “pot-bellied, mutton-headed and cucumber-soled”? It was not Donald Trump, but in fact Zachary Taylor in 1848.
Before that, John Quincy Adams accused his adversary Andrew Jackson of being the son of “a common prostitute brought to this country by the British soldiers”, and James K. Polk suspected Henry Clay of having violated each of the Ten Commandments. Social networks did not exist at the time, but posters, leaflets and gazettes were quick to spread these insults about the candidates.
Verbal violence has always been a part of American elections. Trump’s innovation has more to do with the communication technique — Twitter — than content. Lying is nothing new, either. Trump suggests, without any proof, that Hillary Clinton suffers from Parkinson’s disease, among other things, but Franklin Roosevelt actually led and won three presidential campaigns while hiding the fact that his poliomyelitis prevented him from standing and walking. The American people were unaware of the seriousness of his condition until his death in 1945. Observed from Europe[...]