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Guilty of Sedition? How the Right Is Undermining Our Government's Authority and Capability to Run the Country

It's time to openly confront the fact that conservatives have spent the past 40 years systematically delegitimizing the very idea of US government.
 
 
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Sedition: Crime of creating a revolt, disturbance, or violence against lawful civil authority with the intent to cause its overthrow or destruction -- Brittanica Concise Dictionary

Well, finally. It's high time somebody had the guts to say the S-word -- sedition -- right out loud.

When the indictments against the Hutaree were unsealed last week, the S-word was right there, front and center, in Count One. The Justice Department accused them of "seditious conspiracy," charging that the defendants "did knowingly conspire, confederate, and agree with each other and other persons known and unknown...to levy war against the United States, and to prevent, hinder, and delay by force the execution of any United States law."

This is very serious stuff. But the Hutaree are getting nailed for sedition only because they crossed the line with inches to spare. They're by no means the only ones. Advocating, encouraging, and sanctioning sedition is the new norm on the conservative side.

We saw it again last Thursday, when the Guardians of the Free Republics -- a Sovereign Citizen group that believes that the oath of office taken by state governors is invalid under their twisted Bizarroland interpretation of the Constitution -- sent letters to most or all sitting state governors telling them to either a) take what they consider to be a legitimate oath of office; b) stand down; or c) or be removed "non-violently" within three days. The FBI, rightly, regards this as a potentially seditious threat against the governors.

These two events are a wake-up call for progressives. They're telling us that it's time to openly confront the fact that conservatives have spent the past 40 years systematically delegitimizing the very idea of US government. When they're in power, they mismanage it and defund it. When they're out of power, they refuse to participate in running the country at all -- indeed, they throw all their energy into thwarting the democratic process any way they can. When they need to win an election, they use violent, polarizing, eliminationist language against their opponents to motivate their base. This is sedition in slow motion, a gradual corrosive undermining of the government's authority and capability to run the country. And it's been at the core of their politics going all the way back to Goldwater.

This long assault has gone into overdrive since Obama's inauguration, as the rhetoric has ratcheted up from overheated to perfervid. We've reached the point where you can't go a week without hearing some prominent right wing leader calling for outright sedition -- an immediate and defiant populist uprising against some legitimate form of government authority.

Moderates and liberals are responding to this rising threat with feckless calls for "a return to civility," as all that's needed to put things right again is a stern talking-to from Miss Manners. Though that couldn't hurt, the sad fact is that we're well past the point where it's just a matter of conservatives behaving like tantrum-throwing spoiled brats (though they are). When a mob is surrounding your house with torches and telling you they intend to burn it down, "civility" really isn't the issue any more.

At that point -- and we're there -- criminal intent and action become the real issues. Progressives need to realize that the right began defiantly dancing back and forth over the legal line, daring us to do something about it, quite some time ago. And it's high time we called it out -- and, where appropriate, start prosecuting it -- for exactly what it is.

What is Sedition?
Before we start throwing around inflammatory terms like "sedition," it's essential that we understand the strict definition of the word -- and use it carefully and precisely, lest it lose all meaning.

 
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