'70 Wallace/Brewer Race "Most Negative Campaign of All Time"
As the title implies, Swint chronicles the 25 nastiest political campaigns in American history. The book spans the gamut from presidential elections to state and local, discussing contests from 1800 to 2004. (If you're curious to see which 25 made the list, you can view the book's table of contents.)
And in 200+ years and thousands upon thousands of elections, the 1970 Alabama Democratic gubernatorial primary between Albert Brewer and George Wallace ranks as the most negative campaign in the entire expanse of the American Experiment.
What can possibly make that campaign so infamous? Rollcall interviewed the author who explained his reasoning.
However, Swint explained, it was a clear-cut choice for the top slot after research revealed one glaring detail that was actually an amalgam of glaring details.I haven't read Swint's book, but I'd imagine two of the salient characteristics of the '70 campaign are the beyond the pale (even for him) race-baiting by Wallace and his allies and the several hundred-thousand dollars funneled to the Brewer campaign by Richard Nixon.
"It[the BrewerWallacee race] has so many of the factors that other campaigns have one of, but this one had all of them," Swint said. "It had the racial comments, the betrayal, the dirty tricks on the wives, the name-calling. It had everything.
"It could have very well taken place in 1870 instead of 1970."
If you want to brush up on the history, Steve Flowers dedicated an entire column to the 1970 race during his recent series recapping gubernatorial contests. Also I'd recommend the PBS documentary "Setting the Woods on Fire" or Dan Carter's book "The Politics of Rage" if you're interested in the 1970 race and the Wallace era in general.
I know many in Alabama like to think that our state has its own unique brand of politics, and while that may be hyperbole at times, "Mudslingers" demonstrates that Alabama politics is certainly worthy of at least some level of infamy. And I think that's just how we like it.