This is going to go down as the Year of the Screwball Election. Never before have so many nutcases, whackos, and practicing lunatics come out of their caves to run for public office.

(Not all of them came from caves, of course. Some tied sheets together and climbed out of their windows when the guards weren’t looking.)

First among equals in the Looney Tunes Sweepstakes, I think, is Rich Iott, the Ohio Republican seeking a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Iott was already facing a tough race: Incumbent Marcy Kaptur won more than two-thirds of the vote against her Republican challengers in the past four elections. He became an even bigger longshot when reporters and bloggers found out that his hobby was dressing up in a Nazi uniform. The kind Adolf Hitler’s troops would wear.

Queried about this unusual pastime, he said he had taken his teenage son along on the World War II reenactments and considered them a “father-son bonding” experience. (Who’s he getting parenting advice from–Charles Manson?)

Following close behind Iott is perky Christine O’Donnell, Delaware’s answer to Sarah Palin. O’Donnell, a Republican Senate nominee, began a recent campaign appearance by announcing: “I am not a witch.”

This is known in political circles as “lowering voter expectations.” (Hey, it worked for Richard “I Am Not a Crook” Nixon. For a while.)

That issue behind her, she’s now free concentrate on other matters of national importance, like masturbation (she’s against it), guns (she’s for them), lower taxes (for), and abortion (against).

Neither Iott nor O’Donnell is expected to win, but other, equally baroque personalities are. Rand Paul, for example.

Kentucky’s Republican senatorial nominee has been accused of participating in the kidnapping of a young woman, while he was in college at Baylor University (in aptly named Waco, Texas.). She now claims Paul and his buddies tied her up and took her to a creek where they made her bow down and worship the “Aqua Buddha.”

This story led his opponent for the Kentucky Senate seat to accuse Paul of worshipping a false God, upon which Paul said he would not shake hands with that opponent.

“I will not associate with a man who attacks my religion,” he said. (Aqua-Buddhists are so touchy.)

Paul is a self-styled libertarian but has opposed cuts in Medicare and Medicaid payments to physicians. He’s also an eye surgeon, after all.

Then there’s Sharron Angle, who’s running against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada.

She has denounced Dearborn, Michigan, a Detroit suburb populated with many Arab immigrants, and Frankford, Texas, for being governed under Sharia law. Which, to be fair, would be enough to make your blood boil, except for the fact that they aren’t. As a matter of fact, many of the Arabs in Dearborn are Christians and Frankford has ceased to exist, unless you count the cemetery.

I’m not even going to mention Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate for Governor of New York who has promised to “take a baseball bat” to the New York state legislature and has threatened to “take out” a reporter who asked a mildly hostile question.

Or Linda McMahon, the Republican who is using the fortune she made promoting flamboyant wrestling matches to become a Connecticut Senator.

Establishment political commentators (and I’m glad I’m not one of them) have called this “a populist revolution,” fueled by 10 percent unemployment. It’s not.

A bad economy might make voters angry, but it shouldn’t make them crazy. Why, all of a sudden, do we have Republican candidates who look like directors of the Flat Earth Society?

Here’s my theory: The Chinese are putting something in our water supply that’s making us just a little bit nuts.

They figure we’ll vote these cuckoos into office and make it easier for China to take over the world.

So far, it seems to be working.

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Donald Kaul

OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. www.otherwords.org

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