‘Idiots,’ ‘criminals’ and ‘scum’ – nasty politics highest in US since the Civil War

July 11, 2023

As an indication of that, I collected historical data from The New York Times on the relative frequency of stories involving Congress that contained keywords associated with nasty politics such as “smear,” “brawl” and “slander.” I found that nasty politics is more prevalent than at any time since the U.S. Civil War. Insults are the least threatening and most common form of nasty politics. These include politicians’ references to opponents as “idiots,” “criminals” or “scum.” Leveling accusations or using conspiracy theories to claim an opponent is engaging in something nefarious is also common in nasty politics. Nasty rhetoric is more likely to get covered in the media, or to get likes, clicks or shares on social media than its civil counterpart. Eye for an eye.”The uptick in nasty politics in the U.S. is both a symptom of the country’s deeply divided politics and a harbinger of future threats to democracy.