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 US history.
Donald Trump announces his candidacy
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.”
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.”
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.
At this point, Americans are so freaked out by this hideous election that some are seeking therapy
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 manhood.
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.”
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 ardour 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.
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.”
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 criticised 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.
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, plagiarising everyone from Charles Dickens to Dr Seuss.
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% 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, and homophobes are a Basket of Deplorables -- except when they donate to Clintons.”
Locker room talk
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 sub-human sex objects.
Trump dismissed the remarks as “locker room talk.”
The final bomb
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 be prosecuted.
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 Liver outline 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.
Lynn Stuart Parramore is an author and cultural critic. This article first appeared on Reuters.