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This article is part of a branded content series sponsored by Full Frontal With Samantha Bee to explore this ridiculous election cycle with the seriousness it deserves. Click here for more articles in this series. For more information about Mic's branded content guidelines, please visit our FAQ page.

As the Republican National Convention kicks off this week, the long national nightmare known as the 2016 election enters a new chapter.

It's at this point many may ask themselves, "How the hell did we get here?" It seems like only yesterday — if yesterday was actually 16 hilarious, horrifying months ago — that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) became the first major candidate to announce his bid for the presidency.

Lest we be lulled into forgetfulness by the dignified pomp-and-circumstance of the conventions, it bears reminding how decisively the 2016 election set a new standard of political absurdity. Now that the goofiness of the primaries has given way to the unfettered cynicism of the general election, here are 15 images from those early, innocent days before things went completely off the rails.

When the GOP's candidate clown car pulled up and it was... awkward.

Source: Mic/YouTube
Source: Mic/YouTube

When Jim Webb seemingly bragged about killing a guy...

Source: Mic/YouTube
Source: Mic/YouTube

...and Lincoln Chafee compared himself to a boulder...

Source: Mic/YouTube
Source: Mic/YouTube

...and then both disappeared.

Ted Cruz: Family Man

Source: Giphy
Source: Giphy
Source: Giphy
Source: Giphy

#Hispandering

Bernie Sanders' red scare...

Source: uLoco/Imgur
Source: uLoco/Imgur
Source: Giphy
Source: Giphy

Chris Christie's hostage face

Source: Giphy
Source: Giphy

A tale of two birds

Source: Giphy
Source: Giphy
Source: Giphy
Source: Giphy

Dick moves...

Source: Giphy
Source: Giphy

"Please clap."

Source: Giphy
Source: Giphy