Michele Bachmann and David Vitter finally crossed the line last week: Once just dizzy, entertaining eccentrics, they're now calling for treason.
Not for themselves, of course: They're just talking. But that's their advice for the country. At a rally, they both said that if states don't like any final health care bill, they just shouldn't enforce it. They claim the 10th Amendment backs them up.
How awkward it must be for them that the Constitution says states can't form inter-state pacts without Congressional approval (see Article One, Section 10), or that the last squabble on the point ended at Appomattox Courthouse, at which confab the 10th Amendment wasn't considered a strong talking point. (The 10th Amendment says powers not enumerated to the federal government belong to the states, or to the people.)
You can't tell me members of Congress don't know that. It's much more likely they just figure they can get away with it, since they can't be prosecuted for simply speaking their alleged minds. As for their followers -- Bachman and Vitter probably figure that they'll stay fired up long enough for the two of them to leap to some new bodyguard of lies, and never figure out they've been bamboozled yet again.
And if those followers wind up on the wrong side of the law by signing one of the petitions now circulating, urging states to follow the Bachman/Vitter advice? Well, they're probably safe anyway; after all, the Union didn't hang Jefferson Davis.
Tactics like these are vintage Right Wing, of course; sell your followers a phony premise like "Obama is a Socialist," support it with baseless, emotional claims, and use the result to derail any threats to your political machine.
The fact that no self-respecting Socialist would consider President Obama a Socialist is beside the point. In the Right Wing playbook, it's all about emotion, and betting the pot won't boil over.
The spectacle of armed squads marching outside presidential appearances doesn't bother them in the least, because they've chosen desperate tactics, born of weakness. We wouldn't be seeing them if the Right Wing thought they had the votes or popular support to defeat the Obama Administration on the merits.
If nothing else, the people who direct the Right Wing know that except for health insurers and hospitals, America's corporations favor health care reform, because when said corporate giants go up against First World companies with no health care overhead, the difference kills their bottom line.
In other words, there's an excellent case to be made that reforming the health care system is patriotic and means more American jobs. Why we haven't heard about that is anybody's guess.
But the Right Wing doesn't want to save American jobs or solve the health care problem: If they did, they'd be fighting for reform, since dollar-based rationing and "death panels" is what we have now.
This is about power. The Right knows that if Obama can put this over, their shot at clawing their way back to the table is over.
As it is, the Right now only represents about 20 percent of the voting public, and the country blames them for the economy, bungling Iraq, and the Bush administration in general; if they can't show they can still push people around, they're history, and they know it.
Looked at this way, you've got to wonder what the West Wing is thinking when they try to hammer out a bipartisan bill with people who need to kill it. It's not like Axelrod, Emanuel at al don't know the score -- that the Republicans left in Congress generally represent their party at its most extreme.
And they've also got to know that if they lose this one, it's back to Chicago -- and they'll deserve it. That's got to worry them, and they've got to know their own political base, never mind those pesky liberals, is beginning to wonder if they forgot their cups back in the locker room, since the other side is obviously wearing theirs.
This summer, the nation reached a tipping point. If the Right wins, it's back stronger than ever; if it loses, it withers to a cinder. Skewed poll results aside, Americans are still willing to follow the President, because the majority still wants to believe he can restore domestic tranquility.
To do that, President Obama must cleave to the compact he made with the country -- to turn us away from Right Wing fantasies, and back to ourselves. This is no time for the best to lose all conviction.