Timothy McVeigh Should’ve Run for Republican Office

Crazy is the name of the game in today's Republican Party.

When Timothy McVeigh blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City back in 1995, his head was filled with conspiracy theories involving the United Nations usurping the American government and creating an international tyranny on U.S. soil. (He had even made a trip to Mississippi in search of a purported U.N. military base there.) It was—and remains—looney, fringe, nutter stuff. Only it’s not so fringe anymore: Such conspiracy theories are apparently ascendant in today’s Republican Party.

Exhibit A: Saturday’s New York Times story about efforts by Tea Party activists to rebel against bike lanes (!) and energy meters that help citizens cut their carbon emissions, because such efforts apparently are encouraged by the United Nations, in an effort to take away your freedom! Apparently this all has something to do with “Agenda 21,” a (voluntary) sustainable-planning document adopted by the U.N. back in 1992.

The Times quoted one protester at a Board of Supervisors meeting in Virginia. “The real job of smart meters is to spy on you,” she warned darkly, “and control you.” (Cut to man twirling mustache, maniacally laughing like a mad scientist.)

Crazy stuff, right? Here’s the thing, though: Fox News is pimping the “Agenda 21” conspiracy.  Newt Gingrich is peddling it out on the campaign trail. County commissions weigh in against it. So do state legislators. The Times even reports the Republican Party adopted a resolution against  “the destructive and insidious nature” of Agenda 21.

Crazy stuff. Only in the Republican Party, it’s actually the mainstream.

And lately, that seems to always be the case. Major Republican leaders hem and haw when directly asked if President Obama is an American citizen. (He is.) Mainstream conservatives welcome fringe groups like The John Birch Society back into the fold. Hell, it’s not been so long since Glenn Beck held rank-and-file Republicans in thrall—before, of course, he was quietly exiled to the further reaches of the Internet.

Crazy is big business in today’s Republican Party. Some days, it seems like it’s the only business.

I can hear my conservative friends now, pointing out that there’s no shortage of looney characters and nutter ideas on the left. And they’re absolutely right. Here’s the difference though. When somebody like White House adviser Van Jones is caught giving support to 9/11 “truthers,” he’s made to give up his job and banished from the inner circle.

Do something similar in the Republican Party, and they’ll give you a radio talk show.

Here’s the thing: You don’t have to be crazy to be conservative. You don’t have to sign onto the fringe to believe in limited government. You don’t have to embrace conspiracy theories to believe that the Founding Fathers would’ve wished for today’s officials to hew more closely to the exact wording of the Constitution. It’s not at all necessary. Once upon a time, the man who basically launched today’s conservative movement actually banished The John Birch Society to the fringe. It could happen again.

It is probably unfair to suggest Timothy McVeigh could run as a mainstream Republican. His heart was too full of violence and hate for him to ever be a participant in our politics, no matter how crazy those politics have gotten. But some of his kooky ideas sure rhyme a lot with what amounts to mainstream Republican thought. If the GOP won’t be cautious about playing with crazy fire, the rest of us should be.