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Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has gotten a lot of grief lately, and for good reason. His speculation about whether Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel received secret payments from North Korea was the kind of unsubstantiated smear that takes your breath away. But in all the ballyhoo over Cruz something else seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle: the extent to which the unsubstantiated smear has become stock in trade for Tea Party senators.

Take, for example, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson. Earlier this month he gave a speech in which he set out to “describe” what “patriots,” “people who like freedom,” and “people who like this country” are “up against” these days. The answer: “liberals, progressives, Democrats, whatever they call themselves nowadays, Socialists, Marxists.”

That’s right, Senator Johnson. Having determined that the term “liberal” is too freighted with negative connotations, there are a lot of us Democrats calling ourselves Marxists…

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