Are the Tea Party members of Congress guilty of treason and sedition?
Well, at least 50,000 Americans think so. As of Monday, that's how many have signed a petition at MoveOn.org, asking the U.S Department of Justice "to arrest Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Speaker of the House John Boehner, and other decision-making House Republican leaders for the crime of seditious conspiracy against the United States of America."
The petition accuses Republicans of using the Hastert Rule and House Resolution 368 "to shut down the government and threaten the U.S. economy with default as an attempt to extort the United States government into altering or abolishing the Affordable Care Act ... Arrest the perpetrators in Congress immediately and bring them to justice."
The creators of the petition are citing U.S. Code (specifically 18 U.S.C. § 2384 ) as the basis for charging the perpetrators of the shutdown with sedition.
The code reads: "If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both."
"In their obsession to kill President Obama's signature health care law, a group of House Republicans held America hostage in a last ditch effort to achieve their goal," wrote Stephen D. Foster Jr. for Addicting Info. "At the urging of Senator Ted Cruz, House Tea Party members initiated a shutdown that has cost the country billions of dollars over the last two weeks. ... The shutdown caused a layoff of 800,000 federal employees, resulting in harm to military veterans, children, women, the poor, education, and businesses. It did terrible damage to the nation as a whole and hurt our reputation around the world."
When Democrats didn't give in to their demands, wrote Foster, "Republicans decided to threaten the economic security of the country and the world with a debt ceiling breach. A default on our debt would have sent the economy into a tailspin. Republicans choose to deny that fact and insisted that not raising the debt ceiling was a good thing because Americans need to suffer."
As many supporters of the president and the Affordable Care Act (and many detractors of both as well) have noted, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, legally passed by Congress, signed by Obama and ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"By shutting down the government and threatening the economic security of the United States in an effort to forcibly repeal, weaken, or delay the law, Republicans have committed an act of sedition," wrote Foster.
Let us not forget that House Republicans have tried, and failed, more than 40 times to overturn what is commonly known as ObamaCare.
And we recently learned (in a recent article in the New York Times) that shortly after President Obama was re-elected by nearly 66 million Americans (about 5 million more than his opponent, Mitt Romney), a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese gathered in the Capital to formulate their "blueprint to defunding ObamaCare." It articulated a strategy that encouraged Republican legislators to derail the health care bill by cutting off funding to the entire U.S.government.
And let us not also forget Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell's infamous statement in 2011: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
The opposition to all-things Obama is not likely to end, even after his second term is over, and surely not in the short term.
As Foster noted, "Even though it certainly looks as if the shutdown and debt ceiling crisis is about to end, Republicans refused to make any promises that they wouldn't do the exact same thing again in February."
Foster believes the actions by the Tea Party branch of the Republican party is "tyranny by the minority" that should be answered at the ballot box and by the justice system.
Lynn Parramore, an AlterNet senior editor, accuses the Tea Party of actually being the "Treason Party."
"Pushing the country toward disaster is what right-wingers call patriotism. Members of the Tea Party like to wrap up in the American flag and call themselves patriots. But does a love of country include wrecking the country?"
According to a study released by Macroeconomic Advisers, obfuscation by the Republican party has blocked the creation of more than 900,000 jobs, raising the unemployment rate by .6 percent.
"Partisan divided government has failed to address our long-term fiscal challenges sensibly, instead encouraging policy that is short-sighted, arbitrary, and driven by calendar-based crises," noted Joel Praken, who prepared the report for the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. "Based on this report's findings, we can assert confidently that the crisis-driven fiscal policies of the last several years have damaged our still-struggling economy."
While we do not agree with Parramore and Foster that the Tea Party has committed treason or sedition, we do agree with Parramore's conclusion that what they are guilty of is making "the U.S. a spectacle of bad government, economic recklessness, and moral insensitivity."
In actuality, the Tea Party's threat to push the United States over the fiscal cliff is mild compared to much of the rhetoric emanating from its base, many of whom we contend are bigots and racists or are being led around by the nose by powerful men with deep pockets (yes, we mean you, Koch brothers); we're not going to get into their antics here.
And while some pundits, political analysts and Joes and Janes on the street blame both parties for not negotiating to avoid teetering on the precipice of financial default, we don't subscribe to that opinion. We put the blame squarely in the court of the extremists that are driving the Republican agenda.
We need only point to the fact that the Affordable Care Act is nothing more than a reheated version of health care reform that was suggested by Republicans for years prior to Obama and implemented by their candidate for president while he was governor of Massachusetts. To the dismay and outrage of many progressives who hoped Obama would usher in a new New Deal for America, he has actually done nothing more than offer stale centrist Republican proposals that seemed regressive in the 1980s and 1990s.
Nonetheless, the Tea Party has fought tooth and nail against the president, all the while accusing him of refusing to negotiate. If anything, they are guilty of obstinacy, economic malfeasance, selfishness, hubris, intolerance and of being philistine, and under the U.S. Constitution, they have every right to be as boorish as they wish to be.
Though it's viscerally rewarding to think about throwing in jail the extremists of the Republican party, Americans would be better off putting their energy, and money, into removing them from office via the ballot box.