Vitriol has gone beyond partisan give-and-take in the nation's politics. It is now seeping into and poisoning the ranks of the Republican Party.
Mainstream Republican politicians are cringing at the proposal by senators in the Tea Party movement - Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida - that upcoming legislation to appropriate funds to operate the federal government be held hostage on condition that Obamcare funding is withheld.
Republicans opposing this strategy see it as lose-lose. They don't believe this tactic can defund or deliver a deathblow to Obamacare. At the same time, they see it producing more antipathy toward Republicans and branding them as zealots and obstructionists.
I think the Tea Partiers are on the right track, and I think the "mainstream" opposition is missing key, important points.
Republicans should be thinking about two objectives.
First, fight public resignation that Obamacare will become an inevitable part of our national landscape and continue building public understanding of how bad and dangerous this law is for our health care and our economy.
Second, continue the ongoing work to build public awareness that Republicans are not the party of "no" but the party of "yes" to a conservative agenda, which is really the only viable path to national recovery.
On the first point, the Tea Party strategy is already working.
If Republicans sit politely on the sidelines and allow business as usual to continue in Washington, the American public can only conclude that everything is basically OK.
But everything is not basically OK.
We don't even have to look to Republicans to show what a disaster Obamacare is.
The Obama administration itself initiated a one-year delay in implementing one of the most central features of the law - the mandate on employers to provide government-defined health insurance. No clearer statement could be made of the unworkability of this bureaucratic nightmare.
Now Howard Dean - former Democratic presidential candidate, Democratic National Committee chairman, Vermont governor and still a physician - calls for scrapping another central feature of Obamacare: the Independent Payment Advisory Board.
This is the unelected committee of 15 Washington bureaucrats who will play the central role of pricing medical services under Medicare.
Pricing of medical services by bureaucrats is the pure socialism of Obamacare that those opposed to the law said from Day One would not work. Now Dean confirms this.
On the second point, Republicans must wake up to the public relations battle they have lost over recent years. Radical left-wing Democrats have been accepted in the public eye as moderate and reasonable, and conservative Republicans are portrayed as the nutty extremists.
When President Barack Obama took office, the nation was headed toward the bottom of a terrible recession.
His priority then should have been economic recovery.
It was not. He used the honeymoon of his first year in office to enact his socialist dream of government-funded health care.
Obamacare - The Affordable Care Act - was passed in March 2010 through legislative sleight of hand and without a single Republican vote. It brings socialism to almost one-fifth of the American economy. Its core features are regulation and the government printing press.
Where is the money going to come from to pay for all the subsidized purchases of government insurance? Where is the money going to come from to pay for the 20 million or so dumped into Medicaid on top of the 60 million already there?
And somehow those who brought us this nightmare are the moderates?
No, the Tea Partiers are right. The future of our country is at stake.
The Republican Party's priority must be to wake America to what faces us, to show who the real radicals are, and to demonstrate that the only way out of this mess is by restoring personal and fiscal responsibility and a functioning free market.