Let's suppose for a moment that you are a Republican and in a moment of experiencing a massive brain lapse, you think it might be a peachy idea to run for public office.
Where to begin? What to do?
Judging from the Conservative Political Action Conference held in Orlando last week, the first thing you need to do is get completely crazy. Not just a little bit crazy. Not just the addled Uncle Festus in the attic crazy.
Nosiree, we're talking certifiably Ezra Pound/Zelda Fitzgerald/Col. Kurtz/Norman Bates kind of crazy.
Fortunately, once you check your sanity at the gates of FreedomWorks, you'll have no shortage of role models to emulate.
What better place to start than Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who channelled her inner Carrie Nation, accusing the media of engaging in a calculated assault on Christianity by promoting the ideas espoused in The Da Vinci Code and condemning the The Passion of the Christ.
"This is what dictators and socialist rulers did," Carroll preached. And movie critics, too! Really now, suggesting the The Da Vinci Code was a bigger snooze than The English Patient and that the bloodfest Passion of the Crist was little more than Reservoir Dogs meets the New Testament is hardly an assault on Christian values.
But the gathering was only getting warmed up.
Gracious, there was more red meat in the room than at Bern's Steak House.
It is axiomatic in Republican Party politics that candidates for office face having their Koch Brothers epaulets ripped off if they don't invoke Ronald Reagan's "Shining City on the Hill" reference in every speech.
That's ironic given Reagan's approval of tax increases, boosting the nation's debt limit and granting amnesty to illegal immigrants. The Gipper would probably be chased out of his own party today by a garlic clove/wooden stake-wielding mob accusing him of treason and heresy.
But for pure delusional politicians, it would be hard to beat Florida U.S. Senate candidate Mike McCalister, who has been peddling a resume hinting he won the Battle of the Bulge, Midway and the Inchon Landing all by himself.
During his remarks, McCalister railed against introducing sharia law into the American judicial system and dropped dark fears of a United Nations' Agenda 21 effort to take over the United States.
Cheech and Chong weren't this paranoid.
But apparently scaring the bejabbers out of people that Vladimir Putin wants to date their daughters worked swimmingly for McCalister, who came in a strong second in the CPAC Senate straw poll.
During his speech at CPAC, Senate candidate Adam Hasner at times sounded breathier than Enya as he decried the short memories people have in politics. That is actually a good thing for the former Florida House member, since he supported high-speed rail and the federal stimulus package before these issues became satanic policies aimed at opening the doors to communist domination.
Still Hasner won the straw poll, as well as a two-week engagement opening for Celine Dion at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Of course, the main event was the presidential straw poll, eventually won by former Godfather's Pizza executive Herman Cain.
But this was less of an upset victory by an otherwise marginal candidate than a not too subtle message by the gathered faithful. They are not enthused about having (whisper, very quietly) a Mormon in Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket or Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who started out a few weeks ago as a charismatic J.R. Ewing and quickly became The Beverly Hillbillies' Jethro Bodine of the hustings.
It didn't take much for any of the candidates appearing at CPAC and later at the Presidency 5 event to stir the cauldron of discontent. Rail against Obamacare and illegal immigrants, throw in a few shining city on the hill references and you were pretty much guaranteed a standing ovation.
But applause is not the same thing as support.
And anger du jour does not necessarily win elections.
If the crowd in Orlando wasn't thrilled with Romney and Perry, the other candidates have about as much likelihood of grabbing the nomination as Mel Gibson's chances of winning an Oscar for The Beaver.
Michele Bachmann's sole role now appears to be to give Kristen Wiig something to do on Saturday Night Live. Newt Gingrich seems to be using the Republican presidential primary season just to pimp his books. And Rick Santorum has become the unctuous Eddie Haskell of the stump.
Little wonder the CPAC attendees were unimpressed. This crowd is starting to make the Shining City on the Hill look like a circus trailer camp — with Ron Paul as the night watchman. It's full of clowns whose pandering to the most partisan conservatives is hard for the rest of us to take seriously or listen to.