‘MORE JOHN BIRCH THAN JOHN ADAMS’…. Conservative journalist Jonathan Kay attended the Tea Party convention in Nashville over the weekend, seemingly hoping to be impressed. Instead, he came away convinced that this “movement” is “dominated by people whose vision of the government is conspiratorial and dangerously detached from reality. It’s more John Birch than John Adams.” (via BarbinMD)

Kay paints quite a picture — an event for unhinged conspiracy nuts who believe they should take over the country. They believe the president intends to create “a one-world government.” They believe Alex Jones’s claims that Obama’s candidacy was a plot by the leaders of the New World Order to “con the Amercican [sic] people into accepting global slavery.” One speaker warned of “a U.N. guard stationed in every house.” Conference organizers aired a movie premised on the notion that “the financial meltdown was the handiwork of superannuated flower children seeking to destroy capitalism.”

And “Birthers” were, of course, ubiquitous.

Kay seems to have come away feeling dejected.

Many of the tea-party organizers I spoke with at this conference described the event as a critical step in their ascendancy to the status of mainstream political movement. Yet with rare exceptions, such as blogger Breitbart, who was reportedly overheard protesting Farah’s birther propaganda, none of them seems to realize how off-putting the toxic fantasies being spewed from the podium were.

Perhaps the most distressing part of all is that few media observers bothered to catalog these bizarre, conspiracist outbursts, and instead fixated on Sarah Palin’s Saturday night keynote address. It is as if, in the current overheated political atmosphere, we all simply have come to expect that radicalized conservatives will behave like unhinged paranoiacs when they collect in the same room.

That doesn’t say much for the state of the right in America.

This strikes me as compelling, but I’m left with the same feeling I had after reading the results of last week’s Research 2000/Daily Kos poll about rank-and-file Republicans believing all kinds of bizarre things.

It’s very easy to listen to the Teabagging crowd and think, “Good lord, these nutjobs are insane.” That might even be true. But their mental stability (or lack thereof) will have no bearing on whether those nutjobs elect like-minded policymakers to help run the country. Indeed, Republican officials at every level have begun treating Tea Party lunacy as entirely legitimate.

These folks are going to show up at the polls in November. If their sane counterparts stay home, the results won’t be pretty.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.