As Alana has noted, one of the interesting sidelights of the confrontation in Wisconsin is the way that, once again, liberal hypocrisy on hate speech has been exposed. The dispute between Governor Scott Walker and the Republican legislative majority intent on passing legislation that would limit collective bargaining by state-employee unions and force their members to pay for some of their health-care and pension costs and the Democrats and unions who oppose these measures illustrates the double standard by which our chattering classes view politics in this country.
Throughout 2009 and 2010, during the heated debate about President Obama’s health-care legislation, Americans were repeatedly told by the leaders of the Democratic Party, the mainstream media, and even supposedly nonpartisan groups like the Anti-Defamation League that there was something profoundly and uniquely troubling about the angry language and behavior of those who opposed ObamaCare and the stimulus spending bill. Conservative Tea Party activists were continuously slammed as a threat to democracy because of the way they spoke about Obama or characterized the Democratic majority in Congress. The fact that the political left had spent the previous eight years demonizing President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and the Republicans was ignored. The hue and cry over the need for more civility in politics was treated as an indication that there was something peculiarly unwholesome or even racist in the revulsion felt by a great many Americans toward the president’s policies. In November 2010, the idea that such sentiments were the preserve of a crackpot minority was exposed as a myth when the voters handed Obama a record midterm election defeat and sent scores of Tea Partiers to Washington.
A few months later, as Republicans in many states look to clean up the mess left behind by profligate governments of both parties, left-wing protesters are now employing the same sort of despicable rhetoric that we were told was the exclusive preserve of a dangerous anti-democratic right wing. A few weeks ago, protesters organized by the supposedly squeaky clean Common Cause lobby demonstrated outside a think-tank conference with signs calling for the lynching of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. And this week, as the unions and their Democratic allies sought to override the verdict of the voters by attempting to stop the meeting of the Wisconsin legislature, liberals were in the streets of Madison bearing signs with swastikas comparing Walker to Hitler. Indeed, Democratic State Senator Lena Taylor specifically compared Walker to Hitler.
To those who would argue that this is mere hyperbole, I would point out that liberals did not accept this excuse when they were blasting the Tea Party last year. Moreover, it is very clear from the tenor of the protests and by the rhetoric being exhibited by the Democrats in this dispute that they view their opponents as inherently illegitimate and unworthy of a fair hearing or of holding office. This is exactly what Democrats were complaining about when they spoke of harsh criticism of Obama.
So we have to ask all the people who were bemoaning the incivility of the Tea Party and Obama critics, when will you speak about what is going on in Wisconsin? Will the Jewish Funds for Justice, which rightly criticized Glenn Beck and Roger Ailes for inappropriate language about the Holocaust (while failing to note Democrats who did the same thing), take out another full-page ad in newspapers denouncing Wisconsin Democrats?