They are not righteous rebels or principled provocateurs. They are not constitutionalists, using the ruling framework built by the founders. Just the opposite: they are a militant fringe of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government trying to nullify an established law by extortion. This is not the design of the Constitution.

Nor are they Martin Luther King Jr., or Rosa Parks or Winston Churchill — preposterous comparisons made on the floor of Congress by those whose only real fight is with progress.

In truth, they are the Know-Nothings from the 1850s who fought Irish Catholics and other castoffs from distant lands, vowing to keep them from becoming citizens. Their incarnation today is the Tea Party Republicans who call Latinos drug mules and would rather strangle the federal government than take up immigration reform.

They are the opponents of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare in 1965, labeling what are now the two most popular government programs as socialism that would destroy the country.