There is a disturbing silence from leaders of the Democratic Party over those gangs of black-masked leftist thugs shutting down free speech and beating people to the ground with clubs.
We've seen such leftist violence before, and we saw it again just the other day at a protest in Berkeley, when the city police backed off and the thugs who call themselves antifa swarmed peaceful protesters of the right.
It's all over the internet, young men of the hard left in black masks, black gloves, armed with clubs, hunting down prey who dare speak their minds.
What's striking about all this is the silence.
There has been no concerted media effort to pressure Democratic politicians to denounce Democratic muscle. So Democratic politicians have been relatively silent, as have many of their loyal pundits. A few pundits of the left have even compared the thugs with American soldiers hitting Omaha beach, a ridiculous attempt to legitimize the violence.
This is all corrosive and dangerous. And in a loud political year, the silence of Democratic politicians explains so very much.
Because silence is consent.
And in this silence you may hear something terrifying: the rule of law breaking down.
When politicians aren't pressured to declare themselves, they don't. Most Republican and Democratic pols are transactional personalities who hate taking a stand until after consensus is formed. They'd rather wave a moist finger in the air to see which way the wind blows.
This business of political muscle and politicians can be found in the history of Chicago politics too. Any alderman would condemn violent street crime to get journalists off their back. But if you asked them to condemn specific street gangs or Outfit crews by name, asked them to call out thugs who provide them political leverage in the precincts, they'd look at you as if you'd sprouted six heads.
Now, it's not just a Chicago thing. Political street violence is a national thing. The thugs of the left have shut down free speech at college campuses, at political protests — and they do so at will. Cops in Democratic-run towns now either stand down or step back. And the hunting begins.
Conservatives see the danger to the republic, but so do a few liberals who have been bold enough to warn against the hard, violent left. Alan Dershowitz, the former Harvard Law School professor, is one.
"Do not let the hard left, the radicals, represent the Democratic Party," Dershowitz warned recently. "There is an alt-left and we cannot deny it. The alt-left are radical people who want to deny us free speech, who want to close the campus to conversation, who want to stop people from having dialogue, who want to use violence . . .
"Antifa is not our friend. They will not help us win elections. . . . I do not want to give a pass to the hard radical left, which is destroying America, destroying American universities, destroying the Democratic Party," Dershowitz said.
The easy parallel to antifa and Berkeley is the properly horrified reaction of most decent Americans to the white supremacists and Nazis rallying recently in Charlottesville. The rally was ostensibly about protecting Confederate history, but in effect, with Nazis and the Klan there, it became the theater of white tribalism.
It resulted in the death of a counter protester, Heather Heyer, struck by a car driven in rage by a mad and angry thug of the right.
And President Donald Trump's ridiculous equivocation after Charlottesville — chastising extremists but also saying that among them were some "fine people" — cost him dearly. He was loudly condemned by many, including me.
But at least at Charlottesville and after there was a common understanding, among most journalistic elites, among political elites of both parties, that Nazis and white supremacists would be loudly condemned.
Not so with antifa at Berkeley. Leftist thugs seem to be a protected class, as far as Democrats bosses and much of the Washington media are concerned. Until quite recently, antifa was described not by name, but merely by the neutral term "counter protesters."
Such weakness and partisan favoritism breeds cynicism, and the rule of law breaks down.
Berkeley happened just as the deadly hurricane hit Texas, and just as Trump pardoned his ally Joe Arpaio, the notorious former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.
Arpaio had been convicted of a misdemeanor for violating a court order seeking to stop his office from discriminating against Latinos in a war against illegal immigration that has overwhelmed Arizona. He's become something of a hero to the right, even though he was a lawman openly defying a judge.
There is an easy argument that Arpaio represents the weakening of the rule of law. He was a sworn lawman yet brazenly ignored the courts. But that's a political slogan. Slogans are too easy. And they don't get to the thing itself.
Because long before Arpaio was sheriff, the borders with Mexico had been corrupted. Republican big business wanted cheap and compliant Mexican agricultural labor. Democrats wanted a new dependent class of compliant constituents.
Federal immigration laws were already a joke. And when the rule of law is mocked by the political elites, it breaks down. History tells us that men like Arpaio enter the breach.
So ask yourselves: With leftist antifa thugs becoming increasingly violent, and mealy-mouthed Democratic politicians hesitant to denounce potentially useful political muscle, who steps into the breach?
I hope it worries you a bit. It worries me, too.
John Kass has covered a variety of topics since arriving at the Chicago Tribune in 1983. Kass has received several awards for commentary and journalism, from organizations including the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi, the Scripps Howard Foundation, the Press Club of Atlantic City, the Chicago Headline Club's Lisagor Award for best daily newspaper columnist. In 1992, Kass won the Chicago Tribune's Beck Award for writing. to readmore of his reports, Click Here Now.