STOP THOSE BIKE PATHS BEFORE THEY STRIKE AGAIN…. The list of right-wing boogeymen can get pretty long, but a long-time conservative favorite hasn’t generated nearly as much attention as it used to.

For years, especially in the ’90s, the right desperately hated the United Nations. It was never altogether clear why — “one-world government” hysteria seemed to be part of it — but Republicans used to spend a fair amount of time insisting that Clinton/Gore was turning over national sovereignty to U.N. bureaucrats. Or something.

In any case, U.N. fear-mongering faded in recent years, but it hasn’t disappeared entirely. Reader P.O. flagged this remarkable item for me:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes is warning voters that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s policies, particularly his efforts to boost bike riding, are “converting Denver into a United Nations community.”

“This is all very well-disguised, but it will be exposed,” Maes told about 50 supporters who showed up at a campaign rally last week in Centennial.

Maes said in a later interview that he once thought the mayor’s efforts to promote cycling and other environmental initiatives were harmless and well-meaning. Now he realizes “that’s exactly the attitude they want you to have.”

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t literally laugh out loud at this. “That’s what they want you to think” is something of a comical cliche, used by those making fun of paranoid conspiracy theorists.

In this case, a leading Republican gubernatorial candidate — and Tea Party favorite — was completely serious. Maes went on to tell the Denver Post that efforts to promote bicycling and related programs seem like “warm, fuzzy ideas,” but they’re really “very specific strategies that are dictated to us by this United Nations program.” He added, “This is bigger than it looks like on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms.”

Honestly, is there something in the water this year? Is the RNC handing out crazy pills to all of its candidates?

In this case, Maes is concerned about Denver participating in “the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, an international association that promotes sustainable development and has attracted the membership of more than 1,200 communities, 600 of which are in the United States.”

There’s nothing especially nefarious about sustainable development — it’s actually a smart idea — and Denver joined the effort in 1992, more than a decade before Hickenlooper became mayor.

Unless, that’s all part of Hickenlooper’s radical plan, and he just wants us to think he wasn’t involved in 1992. In reality, he was plotting even then, teaming up with the Illuminati, the Loch Ness Monster, and Bigfoot, working together in some giant pro-bicycle U.N. scheme. All of this is, after all, “bigger than it looks like on the surface.”

Steve Benen

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.