THE FABRIC IS STRONG, BUT IT’S NOT INDESTRUCTIBLE…. Time‘s Joe Klein reports from Arkansas, where he attended a town-hall event hosted by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D). He found an “astonishing” number of attendees who were absolutely certain that President Obama has “larded the government with communists.” It was among many of the “vomitous, disgraceful notions” he heard from locals, one of whom said, “We are living Glenn Beck’s fantasy life.”

Could I just say that the intensity of this getting pretty scary…and dangerous? We are heading toward a cliff and the usual brakes of civil discourse are not working. Indeed, the Republicans have the pedal to the metal — rushing us toward a tragedy far greater than the California health care forum finger-biting Karen describes below. I’m usually not one to panic or be overly worried about the state of our country — even when we do awful things like invade Iraq and torture people, we usually right our course before long — but I have a sinking feeling about where we’re headed now. I hope I’m wrong.

It’s possible that Arkansas is just uniquely strange right now. It is a state where a majority of residents trust Rush Limbaugh, and distrust President Obama. It’s a state where less than half the population believes the president was born in the United States. It’s a state with one of the highest rates in the country for those lacking health insurance, but where the idea of reform is wildly unpopular.

Or maybe it’s not just Arkansas and there’s something very wrong with our political system, put under a serious strain by the “conservative lunatic brigade,” stuck in a “perverse nonsense feedback loop.”

Birthers, Deathers, Tenthers. Beck, Palin, Limbaugh. Bachmann, Inhofe, DeMint, King, and Broun. A scorched-earth campaign intended to tear the country apart, questioning the legitimacy of the president, the government, and the rule of law. It’s all very scary.

Josh Marshall recently noted, “It’s always important for us to remember what the last eight years have again taught us, which is that America has a very strong civic fabric, one that can withstand, absorb and conquer all manner of ugly behavior. It can take in stride a lot of angry rhetoric, townhall fisticuffs and more. But as this escalates we should continually be stepping back and thinking retrospectively from the vantage point of the future about where this all seems to be heading.”

Klein’s not the only one with a sinking feeling

The crazies have a political party, a cable news network, and a loud, activist base. They’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take their medications anymore.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.