Commentary Magazine


Thug Democracy on Display in Wisconsin

Liberal conventional wisdom claims the rise of the Tea Party has put an end to any hope of civility in American politics and that the political right is a stronghold of intolerance that makes reasoned debate impossible. That’s the line President Obama and the Democrats have maintained while trying to portray the Republican Party as being in the grip of extremists. However, events in the battleground state of Wisconsin have once again given the lie to these liberal myths.

Just as unions and their liberal and Democratic allies sought to use physical intimidation to prevent the state legislature from considering or voting on measures they didn’t like, similar behavior is part of their effort to recall Governor Scott Walker. Politico reports that Governor Walker revealed that his family has been subjected to various forms of intimidation tactics during the past year with his children and elderly parents being harassed at a supermarket. His children were also targeted on Facebook.

The Wisconsin recall is being seen as an indicator of how the fall presidential election may go. Given that polls there show the race to be dead even, perhaps that is right. But the conduct of Walker’s opponents ever since he took office last year has demonstrated that the notion of liberal civility is a fallacy. Union thugs sought to physically harass legislators and the governor last year while the Democratic minority in the state house took to hiding out in another state in order to prevent the democratically-elected majority from holding a vote on issues where they disagreed with Walker.

Like the Occupy Wall Street protesters who pose as the guardians of democracy but instead actively seek to suppress the free speech of their opponents, the Walker-haters are not content with a mere discussion of the issues. So it is hardly surprising to learn that Walker’s family is being treated with the same lack of civility.

Neither side in our political battles has a monopoly on virtue or good behavior. But the assumption by the left that only the right engages in bullying can only be preserved by willful blindness. The good name of the trade union movement has been tarnished by conduct in Wisconsin that blurs the line between bad manners and criminal harassment. We suspect the voters of that state will be more influenced by the spectacle of anti-democratic conduct by the left than they are by liberal demagoguery against Walker’s prudent attempt to reform the state’s finances.