This week, MoveOn.org launched one of its most eyebrow-raising petitions in recent memory: It calls for the House GOP leadership to be arrested and tried for "sedition" over their government shutdown.
"I call on the Justice Department of the United States of America 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 states.
Just shy of 40,000 people have signed MoveOn's petition as of this writing. A second, very similar petition also hosted by MoveOn has about 1,500 signatures.
But does shutting down the government rise to the level of "sedition" under the law? The answer: Absolutely not.
A "seditious conspiracy" is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 2384 as such:
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.
Key words being, "by force."
Did the House GOP leadership conspire to use "force" against the government to stop the health care law? No, they did not.
As such, Democrats promoting this cause have lowered themselves to the level of a talking head like Ann Coulter, who once declared on Fox News that the best way to deal with a liberal is a baseball bat.
Throughout American history, liberals have discussed similar tactics to what led to this awful shutdown, including a movement in 2007 that sought to defund the Iraq War. Was that more appropriate than trying to defund affordable health care for Americans? Clearly, yes.
There is no comparison between the atrocities of Iraq and the blessings of the Affordable Care Act. Nevertheless, Senator Harry Reid co-sponsored defunding the Iraq War in 2007. Senator Russ Feingold was also behind the move, as was Representative Dennis Kucinich. Should they have been arrested and tried for sedition? Clearly, no.
So why then are so many Democrats eager to promote such an uncivilized response to the Republican shutdown? I believe the answer is anger, pure and simple.
The shutdown put nearly a million people out of work for 16 long days, wasted $24 billion and made the United States look to the rest of the world like it is being run by unruly children. But it was not sedition.
Allegations like these are simply counterproductive, especially when grappling with big issues like raising our debt ceiling, trying to pass immigration reform or simply improving our image abroad. And you can bet your bottom dollar that conservatives will be outraged by this too, and the level of anger in our body politic will only grow.
That's not how positive change happens. If we give in to anger and hatred, liberals are no better than the hostage-takers they oppose.
Photo: House GOP Leader, creative commons licensed.