On December 7, 2011 Newt Gingrich led most polls for the GOP primaries at 32%. Over the next month, Gingrich said Palestine was a made-up country and that its children were taught terrorism in classrooms. His opponents went after him in attack ads and the Republican establishment poured money into Iowa in part to undo his momentum. He sparred with moderator John King during a debate about marital infidelity. He called for a US-operated moon base by 2020. A Super PAC produced a slanderous 30 minute "documentary" about Mitt Romney that was then discredited by every reputable news source.
Gingrich won the South Carolina primary on Jan 21, 2012. It was his high water mark. He was already bleeding in national polls by then, down to about 13%. Gingrich still found support in Southern states (he won Georgia's primary and finished 2nd in Alabama and Mississippi), but by then Romney was on his way to securing the nomination. Gingrich finally suspended his campaign in late April.
The refrain repeats four years later: a larger than life political personality with sizable hair and a penchant for saying inflammatory things excites a radical portion of his party.
(By the way, remember Herman Cain? He was an African-American who claimed outsider status and briefly led polls in October before crumbling under media scrutiny. See: Ben Carson.)
On a dare, I just typed "Trump is Right" into Twitter and read thousands of tweets from people supporting the Donald. In parts of America, reservoirs of fear and pain ferment into hate and violence. Some men tap into the hate in order to promote their own power.
In 2016, though the names are different and circumstances have changed, I hope history repeats itself. I hope that the rancor that is being released right now eventually corrodes the candidacy of an extremist instead of eating away at our national credibility, safety, and identity.