And so, it’s come to this in the Badger State. After enduring months of political turmoil punctuated by death threats, vandalism, an illegal union occupation of the Capitol, obnoxious work stoppages that closed public schools and the unseemly decamping of Democratic senators to Illinois resorts, Wisconsin residents now learn that the acrimony might well have incited violence among state Supreme Court justices.
Conservative Justice David Prosser, who survived a tawdry union-funded re-election challenge in April, stands accused by liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley of choking her last month during a dispute over a ruling on landmark legislation curtailing collective bargaining by public employees. Prosser denies the allegation — police were still investigating at press time — and so, the circus surrounding Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to de-fang public-sector unions has a new sideshow.
This much ought to be said by reasonable people of every political stripe: If, in fact, the slight, elderly Prosser attempted to strangle Walsh Bradley in front of four other members of the high court, he should resign and face criminal prosecution. Conversely, if Walsh Bradley charged Prosser with fists raised, as at least one witness alleges, then she is the one who deserves a criminal record and the permanent political ignominy of resignation or impeachment.
While the allegations are dissected by Dane County’s overtly partisan liberal sheriff, it’s important for people outside the Madison madhouse to consider this case in the proper context. For months, state and national union bosses have attempted to undo the results of the November general election that handed Republicans control of all levers of state government. The massive union-funded protests last winter merely were prelude to the Prosser race in April — which Bradley attempted to influence by leaking a Prosser email that used a tepid vulgarity to describe liberal Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson — and upcoming recall elections that could give control of the Senate back to Democrats.
Thus, the new normal in Wisconsin politics. In the Walker era, elections have consequences only when liberals win. When they don’t, they will use the courts, recalls, smears, threats, occupations and investigations to undo the results. Perhaps Prosser is guilty; more likely, given the toxic atmosphere of retribution hanging over Madison, the attempted destruction of his character and career merely are part of the larger effort to resurrect a moribund Wisconsin Democratic Party.
Read more on the Outlook and Perspective pages of CSI's Walworth County Sunday e-edition on pages 8A and 9A. and add your comments below.