Who let these guys join the party?

With Mitt Romney shifting toward the center in his debate performances with Barack Obama, you could be forgiven for thinking the GOP has regained a sense of composure and rationality.

You'd be woefully mistaken, of course.

Just listen to the rank nonsense uttered regularly by its own candidates and campaign surrogates, who seem engaged in a competition to see who best show showcase the party's collection of kooks and cranks.

We know about Todd Akin and his views on rape and pregnancy, and his misogynistic comments about his opponent, Claire McCaskill.

Then Richard Mourdock, who ousted longtime Sen. Richard Luger, in a primary and now leads in Indiana's Senate race explained that,

"even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen."

This goes beyond the pro-life position to one in which he's justifying the rape as god's will. It is a truly disturbing comment that is completely indefensible.

Add Sarah Palin to the list, thanks to her racially charged attack on Obama. Then again, she's been on this list all along, with notable race-baiters like Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump.

As for Trump, he made another in a long line of crazy proposals and claims, today offering a donation to charity in exchange for President Obama's college transcripts and passport records.

What ever you think of the president, this obsession with his legitimacy is scary and has everything to do with his race. There remains an disturbingly large minority of Americans -- most of whom affiliate with the GOP -- who refuse to accept that a black man can or should be president. This unwillingness has been translated into a paranoia about birth certificates and official records that can not be dispelled no matter what kind of documentation is provided.

That these kinds of delusional ravings now come from the GOP mainstream is terrifying -- and should be an indictment of a party that probably should go the way of the Whigs.

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Read poetry at The Subterranean.

Suburban Pastoral, a chapbook by Hank Kalet, available here.

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