Wouldn’t it be nice if we could return to a time of greater civility in our political discourse? The days when politicians worked together for the common good, made deals in smoke-filled back rooms, and had three-martini lunches with pols from across the aisle. As Edith Bunker would say, “Those were the days.”

Tuesday night’s Vice Presidential debate was less a debate on policy and more an insult fest that even deteriorated into a dispute over which side has been more insulting. Governor Mike Pence accused the Democrats of running a campaign based on an “avalanche of insults.” Senator Tim Kaine scolded Governor Pence for “defend(ing) the insult-driven campaign that Donald Trump has run.” And those were among the nicer things that they said to one another.

The entire affair (and this election cycle in totality) is enough to leave investors longing for the refined times of yore. The only problem is that those days never existed. A lack of civility in our political discourse is as American as apple pie.

  • Consider the election of 1796 with Vice President John Adams pitted against another Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, in a race to succeed George Washington as President. John Adams said, “If you elect Thomas Jefferson, murder, robbery, rape, incest, and adultery will be practiced throughout the land.” Thomas Jefferson replied, “John Adams is a hideous hermaphroditical character with neither the force nor firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” And we thought no stamina was an insult!
  • Eight years later in 1804, Aaron Burr, the sitting Vice President of the United States shot and killed Alexander Hamilton, the former Secretary of the Treasury in a duel. As bad as things have gotten, we have not seen Joe Biden challenge Timothy Geithner or Hank Paulson or Lawrence Summers or any other former Treasury Secretary to a duel.
  • In 1861, Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office with the nation on the brink of a civil war. He famously implored the nation to embrace “the better angels of our nature.” Lincoln’s call for unity at his first inaugural address took place two weeks after Jefferson Davis had been inaugurated as the President of the Confederacy.

We are (mercifully) a month away from the election. Political attacks will be heated. Our patience as a nation will be tested. And close to half of the electorate will be disappointed with the outcome. Investors should sit back and watch the spectacle, knowing full well that the lack of political civility is as old as the country itself. The peaceful transfer of power from the Obama-Biden administration to the next administration will soon be completed. The nation will endure… as it always has.

As we demonstrated in our previous blog post, investors who stick to their long-term investment plans regardless of who occupies the White House will be better off…as they always have.

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