Remember when "law-abiding" was something conservatives prided themselves on? When they screamed at anti-war protesters for disrespecting the government? When their cars sported bumper stickers reading, "America -- Love It Or Leave It?" When they railed about the necessity to apply "the rule of law" to President Clinton?
Well, those days are long gone, along with bell bottoms and tie-dyed t-shirts.
Now, conservatives are all about attacking our government, advocating violence against it, and encouraging people to ignore laws.
For example, Michelle Bachmann has urged people not to fill out the 2010 census, despite the fact that filling out the forms is required by law. Republicans have tried to cool her off on that because it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that if people in GOP-dominated districts fail to fill out the forms, they will be underrepresented compared to Democrats when the new district lines are drawn in 2011. But after all Bachmann's campaigning, it will be hard to get that genie back into the bottle.
More recently, Bachmann said people don't have to pay taxes or obey the health care reform bill if it passes because a handful of people in Washington D.C., can't impose their will on the American people. In other words, the U.S. government and the constitution are illegitimate.
Then there is Rep. Steven King of Iowa who called for overthrowing the government of the United States in a speech to a tiny tea-bagger crowd.
Some conservatives are hailing violence against the government -- like those who call Joe Stack a hero for killing an IRS employee when he flew his plane into an IRS office building. A couple Republicans even voted against a resolution condemning the attack. And messages of support for the terrorist-pilot have poured in in the wake of the attack.
But Rep. Steven King went even farther -- encouraging conservatives to "implode" IRS offices.
King and Bachmann aren't part of the lunatic fringe in this country. They are elected officials who are part of what used to be considered the "loyal opposition" -- the out-of-power party in a democracy. But now, they are not so loyal.
Passion certainly has a place in politics. But politicians play with fire when they undermine the legitimacy of government. Consensus about the legitimacy of government is a fragile thing and when it's gone, it's hard to get back.