If Obama had had his way, health-care reform would have passed both houses of Congress a week ago in a pure power play. If Obama gets his maximalist version of reform through, he will depend less on persuasion than on sheer political muscle in Washington. Only a public quiescent to the point of obedience would meekly accept a rush to reorder one-sixth of the economy. And only a conservative opposition that had curled up and died wouldn’t raise holy hell.

The ultimate point of the attacks on the town-hall protesters is to define that opposition as illegitimate. Which is also why liberal opinion-makers are so obsessed with the “birther” conspiracy theorists who believe Obama was born in Kenya. The birthers have been denounced by every reputable conservative. But the Left still wants to use them to tar all Republicans as extreme in what it hopes will be a self-fulfilling narrative of conservative obsolescence.