DESPERATE TIMES CALL FOR DESPERATE RHETORIC…. Josh Marshall had a good item earlier on the tone of Republicans’ rhetoric this week about health care. To be sure, GOP attacks on reform proposals aren’t exactly new — and have never been mild or even-tempered — but there is a new air of desperation about them.

All liquored up on sake” … “a suicide run” … bizarre invocations of assassination. Threats of civil (or perhaps not so civil) disobedience against new Health Care laws. The Republican rhetoric sure is heating up as momentum gathers for a final vote on Health Care Reform. But there’s no missing that it’s the intensity of desperation. […]

Passing Health Care Reform won’t save Democrats — whatever ‘save’ means in this context. They’re going to have a very hard November. But there’s little doubt that passing will improve their prospects politically — perhaps only marginally, perhaps by quite a lot. Republican leaders get that, which is why they’re pulling out all the stops for a final push to stop it. So since the politics makes sense and the policy does too, there’s simply no reason not to push ahead to conclusion.

This has come through repeatedly in all the disingenuous campaign “advice” Republicans have offered Dems of late. Matt Dowd, a former Bush adviser, recently argued, “Republicans would like this bill to pass because they know how unpopular it is.” GOP lawmakers, on a nearly daily basis, argue to the majority party, “Health care reform will be electoral suicide for Democrats.”

And yet, Republican rhetoric sounds increasingly panicky. Given how awful the reform bill is supposed to be, and how much Americans are supposed to hate it, the GOP ought to be feeling a whole lot better right now.

Indeed, if they were so convinced that Dems are on “a suicide run,” Republicans should probably want to give the party a hand — the GOP should be inviting up-or-down votes in both chambers, with no filibusters or delaying tactics. If your rivals are drowning, why not throw them an anvil, right?

The truth, in all likelihood, is that “the intensity of desperation” is growing because Republicans fear that the country might actually like the Democratic proposal. Remember the Bill Kristol memo to the GOP during the last health care fight 16 years ago — the merit of the reform proposal and its ability to improve the lives of Americans was deemed largely irrelevant; what mattered were the political consequences. A successful reform effort, Kristol said at the time, would position Democrats as the “protector of middle-class interests,” a fate the GOP could not allow.

If Dem lawmakers don’t notice the fear behind the Republican hysterics this week, they’re just not paying attention.

Steve Benen

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.