In the midst of one of the strangest, most outlandish, stark-ravingly maddest election cycles in the history of the United States, a surprising number of voters have turned to me for guidance.
I was tempted to tell them all to take two aspirin and go to bed until the third week of November, but that seemed a trifle irresponsible. So, I will attempt to answer all the questions to the best of my limited abilities. Here goes.
Dear Ed: I have been closely following the presidential primary and I have to ask: has our country lost its goddamned mind?—Curious in Columbus
Dear CiC: I don’t think it’s fair to say the country has lost its mind, but it is more than 200 years old, so perhaps a bit of dementia has begun to creep in.
Dear Ed: My dictionary tells me that a debate is a “contest of argumentation,” in which opponents use reason, logic and persuasion to settle matters of contention, or to attempt to prove the worthiness of their beliefs. How on earth can we continue to call these televised Republican thug-fests debates?—Appalled in Absarokee
Dear AiA: My own dictionary (American Heritage) lists these “obsolete” definitions of the word “debate”: 1, verb, “To fight; quarrel”; and 2, noun, “Conflict, strife, contention.” This is a case of the Republican candidates falling back on the doctrine of “originalism,” in which one seeks out what our ancestors meant by certain words or phrases and then ordering one’s life according to their principles.
Dear Ed: What do you suppose the Founding Fathers would think if they could somehow witness this election year?—Wondering in Winnett
Dear WiW: I believe they would be unable to think anything at all after the reality of modern-day America landed on their heads like an anvil. In time, though, some of the harder-headed ones, like John Adams, probably would have figured we’d got what we deserved.
Dear Ed: I’m a big fan of “House of Cards,” in which the U.S. president and his wife are depicted as soulless monsters who would stop at nothing, not even murder, in their quest for power. Do you see any parallels between that show and the current election season?—Flummoxed in Floweree
Dear Ed: I see that the Montana Democrats have managed, once again, to find some patsy to pretend he’s running for governor, enabling the sitting Democratic governor, in this case Steve Bullock, to blow primary campaign donations on the general election. Why don’t they just change the law to allow that sort of spending whether there’s a primary challenger or not?—Baffled in Billings
Dear BiB: Legislators in both parties are so familiar with this charade that it seems easier to indulge in it than going to the trouble of explaining to simple-minded voters how things really work. Plus, it gives a small number of people the pleasure of telling the grandkids that they once ran for governor.
Dear Ed: Since Montana has only three electoral votes, and since our primaries are so late in the cycle that it is almost inconceivable that our state could make the slightest difference in choosing either the Republican or Democratic presidential candidates, why should we care as much as we seem to do?—Confused in Colstrip
Dear CiC: That’s a good question, so good that I can’t really answer it. I’m no political scientist, but I know even less about psychology.
Dear Ed: What do you make of the Senate Republicans announcing ahead of time that they won’t even consider any Supreme Court nominees brought forward by President Obama? Don’t they have a constitutional duty to act on such a nomination?—Just Asking in Alzada
Dear JAiA: According to the Constitution, yes. But a lot of leading Republicans think a single quote attributed to Jefferson—“That government is best which governs least”—supersedes everything in the Constitution. According to this view of governance, we are approaching a state of perfection.