You always hear about a mythical time when political campaigns were more reasonable and people weren't so bitterly divided. Sanity should be "restored" goes the John Stewart rally slogan. When did it exist? Last election cycle I read "A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America's First Presidential Campaign" by Edward Larson, about how underhanded slurs have been par for course since the country's first stab at voting. Reason.tv shows what it may have looked like in 1800 if the attack-pamphlets were made into attack-ads.
Here's a related comic from a while back.