John Cole shared a great story this afternoon.

[T]oday in my post office box (another government service that I absolutely cherish) there was a piece of mail from the local public service department, where I get my water. It was an annual EPA required report, detailing in clear English, where my water comes from. Half of it is treated surface water from the Ohio River, the rest is from deep wells along the banks of the river. The report outlined backup plans should the Ohio become contaminated (more and more likely as Pennsylvania allows drillers to simply dump whatever the fuck they want in the water), and then went on and provided the annual data on the level of contaminants in my drinking water.

I like this. I think it is valuable for a number of reasons, beyond simply keeping me informed. It also verifies that the folks who provide me my water are keeping an eye on things, and providing a safe, clean product that I and my neighbors can consume. It’s the very model of good government. This is why we band together to form government- to do things that would be impossible to do otherwise.

To Republicans, though, this is an evil thing.

This is important for several reasons, not the least of which is that I don’t want John drinking contaminated water. The first is that reports like the one John receives are a fairly modern development. As Atrios explained, “Water (and air) in much of the country used to be dirty. Really really dirty. A lot of those really dirty waterways are now somewhat less dirty, if not places you want to actually swim in or fish, and a lot more of the places that were somewhat dirty are now places people swim and fish in.”

The EPA, in other words, made things better.

The second is that Republicans are eager, almost desperate, to roll back the clock. Indeed, John’s anecdote comes the day after Michele Bachmann — widely regarded as the “winner” of last night’s debate for Republican presidential candidates — explained her belief that the Environmental Protection Agency shouldn’t exist. That report that John receives about the safety of his water? It apparently shouldn’t exist, either.

E.J. Dionne Jr. added, “It’s a sign of how far to the right the Republican Party has moved that she didn’t stand out for her extreme views. On this stage, suggesting we should just rid ourselves of the Environmental Protection Agency seemed par for the course.”

Some of us have become so accustomed to the radicalism of today’s Republican Party that a candidate can call for the elimination of the EPA, and it seems somehow normal and uninteresting. Too few of us even blink an eye at this garbage anymore.

But being desensitized to madness isn’t healthy. Jacob Weisburg made the case that the GOP field “appears far less outlandish than one might have predicted,” but his standards appear far too generous. As Ed Kilgore responded, “When the political center of a party, or a country, is in the process of shifting, there’s a lot of noise and conflict. When it settles in its new place, however, it gets very quiet. To a very great extent, that’s what has happened in the GOP. It is not a sign of ‘sanity’ or ‘moderation’; simply one of consensus.”

That this consensus leaves us with a radicalized party is a tragedy. That we’re getting used to this radicalism seems nearly as bad.

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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.