Before the dust had settled, even before the earliest returns were complete, a close friend wrote:
"The morning after last week's not-so-super Super Tuesday, the old eyes were still burning from watching the tiny, ever-changing vote totals on the little screen that dominates our lives like any other would-be Latin America caudillo. Or were those tears gathering for my country?"
The question keeps resounding in my mind even now: Why? Why? Why? Has all reason fled to brutish beasts? Or is this just another of fate's whimsical jokes? If so, the joke's on all of us, including those who suppose themselves winners, at least for now. For they too lost, little as they may know it just yet. For when the country loses, we all do. It's a sad sight, watching a country self-destruct.
Yes, it's happened before, here and abroad. Think of the Weimar Republic between the wars. The Great Wars, as they were known at the time. But at least the Germans had an excuse, or rather lots of them, during the ever more ominous 1930s: They were a defeated people, humbled first by the war and then by the peace imposed on them. No wonder they joined the fascist tide sweeping Europe, if not the world. Oh, yes, and their economy was being ravaged by super-inflation at the time. Disaster atop disaster.
But what excuse do we Americans have in the Year of Our Lord 2016? Calmer heads and keener judges of current events like Warren Buffett may know that these are really good times, whatever ambitious, short-sighted politicians may be saying to stir up the rest of us. But if the country isn't going nuts, it's, well, showing its eccentric streak. For whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad. Even the healthiest instinct of a stable democracy -- stick with the two-party system -- is being questioned.
The only bright spots on the radar screen showed up down the ticket. Here in Arkansas, Her (Unsavory) Honor Courtney Goodson lost her bid to become chief justice of the state Supreme Court, so let us be grateful for Providence's favors, however small. It's not just her questionable behavior off the bench that has raised eyebrows for some time now but the quality of her legal opinions -- like her arbitrary decision to void the state's voter ID law.
As for those Republican presidential candidates still trying to stem the rising Trumpian tide, spare some pity for them. For example, Mario Rubio, whose brave talk had the sound of somebody whistling (Dixie) as he strolls past a graveyard at midnight: "Two weeks from tonight, we are going to send a message that the party of Lincoln and Reagan and the presidency of the United States will never be held hostage by a con artist...." But what difference will super-duper Tuesday make if current trends continue onward and downward, as they show every sign of doing?
No, this isn't a completely disastrous election year. Like, say, 1832, when Andrew Jackson was pursuing his war against the Second Bank of the United States and the American economy in general. Or -- talk about catastrophe -- 1860, when the Union itself would begin to come apart at its unsteady seams. But it doesn't look like a good year, either. For if the country hasn't gone completely nuts, it's showing what let's call its eccentricity.
Yours in hope, always, but it's getting harder and harder to hold onto it,
Your old friend,
Dutiful but Unhappy Observer
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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.