1988: Michael Dukakis, a death penalty opponent, is asked in a debate, "Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?" Dukakis replies, "No, I don't . . .” and explains why with all the ardor of a tailor reciting suit sizes. His campaign crashes and burns. It was a completely fair unfair question. What would have been wrong with an answer that began “I would want to kill him myself, slowly, over hot coals . . . . But I don’t want this to be a country where justice is the same as vengeance”? Any question is fair that reveals a candidate lacks a presidential range of emotions.
1984: I had a daughter in the first grade at Francis Parker. A mock election was held in her classroom. The results were 23 votes for Mondale and one for Reagan. The teacher telling us this story then added, “And the mother of the little boy who voted for Reagan called me the next day and apologized. She said he’d misunderstood the directions.” It was a telling glimpse at how popular sentiment was trending in Lincoln Park, yet Reagan carried 49 states!
1958: I get a call at home. It's Brad Binnington on the line; he’s running for senior class treasurer and he wants my support. My support! I marvel, but if he thinks I’m a power broker the next move's mine. So I lay out my terms. The senior assembly, a spring comedy show, is a hallowed tradition at our school and I want to be in charge. Brad wins his race and delivers big-time. Not only am I chairman of the senior assembly, but the cochairman is a girl I’ve been nuts about since tenth grade geometry. As I see it, the obvious division of labor is for me to create and her to be responsible for everything else. Alas, the curse of auteurist insufferability exacts its price: the show’s a big success and the next time the cochairman speaks to me is at our 50th class reunion. The lesson here needs to be learned by anyone who gets emotionally invested in an election: divine retribution is likelier than paradise.
"Screw this election—let's talk about past elections all week," by Tal Rosenberg
"Johnnie To's Election, which has little in common with the U.S. presidential election," by Ben Sachs
"And in this corner, the Rainbow Coalition!" by Kate Schmidt