Commentary

Death threats to elected representatives. Menacing mobs -- swearing, screaming, spitting -- surrounding them as they walk to work.

Rampaging crowds invading the Capitol, overwhelming police, kicking in doors and climbing through windows. Bomb threats, and rounds of ammunition discovered at the State Capitol.

Is this Nazi brownshirts at work, busting up a meeting of political opponents in 1933 Germany?

No, it's what has passed for "democratic opposition" in Wisconsin over the last six weeks.

As the dust settles (for the moment) on Cheeseland's bruising struggle over public-union power, union supporters are attempting to portray their battle to bring state government to a halt as a noble struggle to defend democracy and "the people's rights."

But the real threat to democracy -- and to the rule of law -- comes from union members and their Democratic allies who have tried to derail the democratic process through mob rule and intimidation. Their omnipresent poster says it all: It's Wisconsin in the shape of a fist.

On March 11, the Wisconsin Department of Justice announced that law enforcement agencies had "investigated numerous threats against elected officials over the last four weeks."

"It's not safe, I think, to be walking on the street and be a Republican in Madison right now," state Sen. Glenn Grothman told CNN. A note pushed under his office door read: "The ONLY GOOD Republican is a DEAD Republican."

"We will hunt you down," ran a threat e-mailed to another senator. "We will slit your throats. We will drink your blood. I will have your decapitated head on a pike in the Madison town square. This is your last warning."

"I as well as many others know where you and your family live, it's a matter of public records," warned another. "We have all planned to assult [sic] you by arriving at your house and putting a nice little bullet in your head."

Police advised GOP Sen. Randy Hopper, a death threat recipient, to cancel his plans to march in a St. Patrick's Day Parade in Fond du Lac.

"Officers say the lawmaker's absence will take some of the pressure off enforcement, but security will be high in Fond du Lac and at other parades in the state," reported Green Bay's WLUK-TV.

Hopper said in a statement that he "had looked forward to walking the parade route, but I in no way want to put the citizens of Fond du Lac in harm's way."

This is small town Wisconsin we're talking about, folks, not Mogadishu.

On the night of March 9, after the state Senate passed the union bill, police smuggled GOP senators through a tunnel to avoid confrontations.

 The lawmakers were loaded on a bus under police guard. Immediately, a howling mob swarmed the bus -- pounding on it, shouting curses and finally pursuing it.

Meanwhile, hordes of protesters surged into the Capitol, muscling past police, kicking in doors, damaging windows and shouting, "This is what democracy looks like!" and "Whose house? Our house!"

"Within an hour and a half of the vote, the protesters had seized the building's lower floors," reported WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee. "Police gave up guarding the building entrances and retreated to the third floor."

Shouldn't political thuggery of this kind be ringing alarm bells across the nation? Yet national mainstream media have mostly responded with a shrug.

These are the same folks, you'll recall, who burst a blood vessel if a Tea Partier raised his voice at a 2008 townhall meeting on Obamacare.

Over at the left-wing Huffington Post, liberal Lee Stranahan berated major media for their silence: "Proven death threats against politicians are being ignored by the supposedly honest media. ... Ignoring the story of these threats is deeply, fundamentally wrong. It's bad, biased journalism that will lead to no possible good outcome, and progressives should be leading the charge against it."

Now the state's new union legislation is on hold, held up by a judge's restraining order after Democrats claimed that Senate Republicans gave inadequate notice of the vote. (That's rich, considering Democratic senators had been holed up in Illinois for weeks precisely to prevent that vote.)

The GOP could bypass the restraining order simply by voting on the bill again. But Wisconsin Republican Party Executive Director Mark Jefferson told the Wall Street Journal that's unlikely.

"Protesters have congregated at the homes of Republican legislators, surrounded their cars and jeered at them as they walk to work, Mr. Jefferson said," the Journal reported. "'It was such a fiasco before, they're probably not eager to get spit on again,' he said."

In a liberal democracy, such brownshirt tactics should be anathema. If we allow them to succeed in Wisconsin, we can expect them increasingly to poison democratic deliberations across the land.

Katherine Kersten is a senior fellow at the Center of the American Experiment. The views expressed here are her own. She is at kakersten@gmail.com.

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