Gerald Caplan is an Africa scholar, a former NDP national director and a regular panelist on CBC's Power & Politics.
It's not just Trump. The entire Republican Party is mad as a hatter. Yet, almost half of all Americans support Trump, the Republicans, or both. What does this tell us about the state of the States? If we weren't all having a conniption about a Trump presidency, we'd be worried sick about whoever the Republican nominee had been.
Remember: 17 people originally ran for the Republican nomination. And as we are not often enough reminded, while none was quite as destructive and uniquely deplorable as Trump, all could boast peddling truly extreme and often mad ideas. With only a few anxious days to go before the election, it's useful if we frighten ourselves even more with reminders of one of the reasons Trump won – his opponents.
Remember Ted Cruz, runnerup to Trump? The man who virtually every one of his Republican peers openly despised? Cruz believed President Barack Obama wanted only "to destroy the constitution and this republic," not to mention that "the overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats." On global warming, Cruz maintained it is not supported by scientific evidence and there "has been no significant warming whatsoever for the last 18 years."
But we mustn't pick on poor Cruz here. It seems that not one of the 17 candidates believed human-made global warming was real or, if real, any kind of priority.
Remarkably, many commentators saw Marco Rubio as the moderate among the 17. Some moderate: Rubio was adamant that climate change was a fraud, that creationism was real, that gay rights were anathema, that immigration was a curse (although his father was born in Cuba). Rubio also believed that Obama has a plan to "weaken America on the global stage. This is the truth." He boasted that only his campaign had the courage (or something) to expose Obama "for his deliberate actions to destroy our country."
Don't forget the Strange Case of Dr. Ben Carson. Carson called Obamacare "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery." In fact, it was "slavery in a way" because it was part of a larger plot to impose communism on America. Carson is black.
There were a dozen more candidates, each with ideas daffier and more dangerous than the next. Mike Huckabee was certain "there's more freedom in North Korea sometimes than there is in the United States" because, in the U.S., "Christian convictions are under attack as never before … We are moving rapidly towards the criminalization of Christianity." His considered view on climate change? "I believe most of us would think that a beheading is a far greater threat than a sunburn."
Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist and serious libertarian, opposes the mandatory vaccination of children. By preventing infectious diseases, vaccination has been one of the greatest contributions to better health in world history. Paul also opposes "government interference" in health, aid to the poor, civil rights, the environment – just about anything you can think of except of course abortion, which government must ban. His voting score has been 100 per cent, according to the American Conservative Union.
Rick Santorum opposes all forms of birth control, even for married couples, and believes that a baby from rape is a "gift from God."
Beyond the candidates, think also of Republican elders and Trump mouthpieces Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani.
Gingrich, who churns out ideas somewhere between eccentric and seriously deranged, once caused the shutdown of the entire American government because Bill Clinton supposedly snubbed him on a trip in Air Force One. Giuliani, a featured shrieker at the Republican convention that chose Trump, was nothing less than terrifying with his demagogic screaming, wild gesticulations, out-of-control hysteria. It was not pretty.
Both men insist Donald Trump is a genius. Presumably both would have much influence in any Republican/Trump presidency.
What might be even more menacing is the ultra-conservative line being pushed by the vast majority of Republican candidates at the state level, running either for Congress or state office. They represent not the establishment of the Republican party but its future. Texas is a good example of this, although most states would do. As one observer pointed out, "We'll either have an ultra-conservative establishment candidate or an ultra-conservative outsider. There are no moderate Republicans."
Their positions on most key issues is uniform and uncompromising: Stop "the illegal invasion" of immigrants, teach creationism in schools, outlaw abortions even for rape and incest victims, and allow the open carrying of firearms. Several call for the impeachment of Obama, and one invited rocker Ted Nugent to campaign with him soon after Nugent called the President a "subhuman mongrel."
It's at the state level where Republican majorities have quite deliberately rigged constituency boundaries to make it much more difficult for blacks to vote.
It's surely clear that this mob is no aberration but the genuine representatives of today's Republican Party – and of an ominously large section of the American public. Trump is merely the maddest of a huge club of radical extremists. Yet, they are supported by close to half of all Americans.
So pity poor president Hillary – if she can withstand another October surprise. Besides Russia, China, Syria, Turkey, ISIS, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, an intransigent Congress and the FBI, she'll have to face a humiliated and vengeful Donald Trump, a reckless Republican Party, and an almost wholly disunited United States of America.