When America staggers to the polls on Tuesday, it will mark the end of a political season that has felt at times as if Hieronymus Bosch were directing episodes of Crossfire crosscut with The Anna Nicole Show.
Here are 11 of the most surreal and soul-crushing moments of what has to be one of the most god-awful election campaigns in U.S. history.
1. Donald Trump announces his candidacy — and his crazy. In June 2015, the orange-coiffed real estate mogul and reality television star glided down the escalator in Trump Tower in New York to announce his bid for the White House in a speech that launched a thousand hate bombs.
“We are going to make our country great again,” he said. He would build a giant wall to keep Mexicans out of the Land of Opportunity — and make Mexico pay for it. “When Mexico sends its people,” he claimed, “… They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
America gasped. NBC quickly released a statement that declared: "We will re-evaluate Trump's role as host of Celebrity Apprentice should it become necessary, as we are committed to this franchise."
This was only the trailer. Of a very long horror movie …
2. Blood coming out of her wherever
August 2015: During the first Republican primary debate, co-host Megyn Kelly of Fox News spotlighted Trump’s long history of hateful remarks about women: “You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.” His response was to insult Rosie O’Donnell.
In a follow-up CNN interview, the candidate suggested that Kelly had been menstruating during the debate: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
Kelly later pressed Trump in an interview about Twitter posts he retweeted describing her as a "bimbo.” “Not the most horrible thing,” he retorted. “Over your life Megyn, you’ve been called a lot worse. Isn’t that right? Wouldn’t you say?”
3. Make America hate again, Muslim edition
In December 2015, Trump responded to a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, with a shocking call for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States. He cited polls that he said indicated that a high percentage of Muslims have "great hatred towards Americans."
Trump later suggested the need for racial profiling and surveillance of mosques in America, home of the free. But his anti-Muslim slams reached new lows when he insulted the parents of a fallen Muslim American soldier.
In a speech at the Democratic National Convention, the Gold Star father, Khizr Khan, told the story of his son, who died protecting his men in Iraq. He pointed out that Trump had "sacrificed nothing and no one.”
The GOP candidate responded by belittling Khan’s wife and her faith.
Trump avoided service in Vietnam, but an old interview surfaced in which he explained his personal sacrifices to Howard Stern. Avoiding STDs during his bachelor rampages in the 1970s, he said, was "my personal Vietnam — I feel like a great and very brave soldier."
4. The penis debate
During a campaign speech in February 2016, former GOP presidential candidate and Florida Senator Marco Rubio made disparaging comments about the size of Trump's hands — a line perceived to be a reference to the dimensions of the real estate developer’s penis.
Trump defended his junk in the Fox News GOP debate in March.
“Look at those hands,” Trump said, holding up his mitts. “Are they small hands? And he referred to my hands if they are small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee you.”
5. Septuagenarian Socialist wins in Michigan
Many pundits dismissed Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont as a presidential contender. In what would become a string of analyst blunders in the presidential campaign, they got it exactly wrong.
The outspoken, white-maned socialist made the race with Hillary Clinton far tighter than anyone imagined at the outset. He sparked the ardor of young Americans to “Feel the Bern.”
Sanders not only pulled off an early upset in Iowa, he gobsmacked pollsters who couldn’t fathom his popularity, including Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, who said that if Sanders were to win Michigan, it would be “among the greatest polling errors in primary history.”
History was made. Sanders won.
Clinton eventually won the bruising primary, but Sanders’ challenge to money-driven politics — including his stark criticism of Clinton’s lucrative speeches to Goldman Sachs — made lasting impact.
When Sanders announced his support of Clinton as the Democratic nominee, Trump tweeted, “Bernie Sanders endorsing Crooked Hillary Clinton is like Occupy Wall Street endorsing Goldman Sachs.”
6. Ted Cruz: “Lucifer in the flesh”?
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, whose GOP presidential candidacy was distinguished by him eating bacon from the muzzle of a machine gun, rubbed many Americans the wrong way. Including plenty of prominent members of his own party.
In April 2016, Republican former House Speaker John Boehner was asked his view of Cruz.
“Lucifer in the flesh,” he declared. “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends,” the former speaker added. “I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”
A few days later, Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.) weighed in on Boehner’s remarks on CNN: “Maybe he gives Lucifer a bad name by comparing him to Ted Cruz.”
7. Those “damn emails”
A shadow fell over Clinton’s presidential run before it officially began in March 2015 when America learned that she used a personal email account to conduct official business as secretary of state. This revelation forced her to hand over roughly 30,000 emails to the State Department.
The American people are “sick and tired about hearing about your damn emails!” snapped Sanders in the first Democratic presidential debate in October 2015.”
But we would be hearing a lot more.
In May, the State Department criticized Clinton’s use of the private email server and rejected her suggestion that she had approval to use it, though it concluded that her actions were not criminal.
In early July, the FBI interviewed Clinton about the same topic. FBI Director James Comey then officially stated that he would not recommend charges against Clinton, but pointed out that she and her aides were “extremely careless” in handling classified information.
The End. Just kidding! See: No. 11.
8. Melania Trump channels Michelle Obama
At the Republican National Convention in July, Melania Trump, Donald’s reticent Slovenian spouse, emerged from the sidelines in a curious white frock to introduce her vision to the American public.
Only it wasn’t quite her vision. In an epic screw-up, her speechwriters had pulled material directly from a speech given by Michelle Obama to the Democratic National Convention in 2008.
In a hilarious send-up of the episode, actress and singer Laura Benanti played the part of Melania on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, plagiarizing everyone from Charles Dickens to Dr. Seuss.
Melania Trump has lately appeared before the public discussing her husband’s penchant for grabbing female genitalia. See: #10.
9. Basket of deplorables
In 2012, the magazine Mother Jones got hold of a video in which then-GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney suggested at a private reception for wealthy donors that 47 percent of his fellow Americans were government-dependent losers.
Politicians learned their lesson on talking smack about voters at high-dollar shindigs.
Not! At a fundraiser in September 2016, Clinton summoned her best urban elitism and said that half of Trump supporters could be put in a “basket of deplorables” because they were “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.”
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein tweeted, “Clinton thinks racists, misogynists & homophobes are a Basket of Deplorables — except when they donate to Clintons.”
Just when Americans thought that the campaign season could not get more sordid, it did.
With the sudden appearance of a 2005 Access Hollywood tape from the set of the soap opera Days of Our Lives, America got to hear Trump making disgusting remarks about women and boasting of his right to sexually molest them. In a conversation with a cackling Billy Bush, cousin of George W. Bush and then co-host of Access Hollywood, he elaborated on his view of women as subhuman sex objects.
Trump dismissed the remarks as “locker room talk.” NBC News did not. Bush was relieved of his new duties on the Today show. Meanwhile, several artists set Trump’s infamous words to music, Kanye West producer Mike Dean among them.
Then came what looks to be the final bomb to burst over a burned-over American electorate this season.
As Americans geared up for Halloween weekend, they heard the name Anthony Weiner, the sext-addicted former congressman and spouse of Clinton aide Huma Abedin, befouling the airwaves again.
Lately accused of sexting a 15-year-old girl, he was the subject of an FBI probe that turned up thousands of emails on his laptop that might be related to Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.
In a move that stunned the country, FBI Director Jim Comey sent a letter to Congress that stated the bureau was reviewing the emails. On October 31, the bureau obtained a warrant to examine them.
On November 3, the FBI announced that the emails found on the Weiner laptop were not duplicates of those on her private server. Finally, it declared on November 6 that Clinton would not prosecuted. Never mind!
Which did not stop Trump’s running mate, former Indiana Governor Mike Pence, from blasting Clinton, to enthusiastic cheers of “Lock her up!” from a crowd in Hickory, North Carolina.
At this point, Americans are so freaked out by this hideous election that some are seeking therapy. Summing up the country’s mood, actor Alec Baldwin broke out of his latest Saturday Night Live routine portraying Trump to ask the audience, "I just feel gross all the time. Don't you guys feel gross all the time about this?"
In a word: Yes.
About the Author
Lynn Stuart Parramore is a contributing editor at AlterNet, co-founder of Recessionwire and founding editor of New Deal 2.0 and IgoUgo.com. She is the author of Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture.
The views expressed in this article are not those of Reuters News.