In Official Washington, decrying “partisanship” as the “real problem” is the prerequisite for being taken seriously as a smart, unbiased political commentator. But from where we stand right now, partisanship is not the problem. Democrats are not the problem. Republicans are not the problem. The relationship between President Obama and John Boehner is not the problem.

The Tea Party is the problem.

The Tea Party is the most destructive force in American politics today. Over the last few weeks, it has demonstrated again that its intent is not to shake up the establishment but to burn down the village. As a Democrat, I disagree with its policy positions, but its policy positions alone are not what make the Tea Party so dangerous. What makes the Tea Party dangerous is its members’ willful disregard for the most basic tenets of American democracy. They do not believe in the legitimacy of our president. They do not believe in the legitimacy of decisions handed down by our Supreme Court. Unlike President Obama, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, or a host of other Democratic and Republican lawmakers who grasp the basic reality of politics, they have never, not once shown a willingness to compromise on anything. Merely uttering the word is enough to draw a primary challenge…

The Republican Party is at war with itself. And as tempting as it might be for Democrats to gloat from the sidelines, it is in all of our interests—Democrats, independents, and Republicans—to make sure the Tea Party doesn’t win. In 2014, candidates of both parties should challenge their rivals to sign a No Shutdown Pledge and a No Default Pledge. In House races, candidates should be asked whether they’re willing to violate the ridiculous Hastert rule and allow simple up-or-down votes on legislation that could pass with bipartisan support, no matter who holds the majority. In Senate races, they should be asked whether they’re willing to make it harder for bipartisan legislation to be filibustered by a Ted Cruz or a Mike Lee.