The proof is in the pudding, they say, and after years of putting up with an increasingly demagogic, despotic government at all levels, Americans are beginning to realize their just desserts aren’t what they expected.

While millions fell for the fantasy of a liberal utopia and swept Barack Obama and a wave of Democrats into Congress, state legislatures and even local offices five years ago, the reality of what they’ve done is starting to dawn on voters.

A recent poll showed an alarming, if not the least bit surprising, statistic: Nearly two-fifths of Americans fear their government.

Not just dislike or disagree with, but fear.

A new Rasmussen national telephone survey of 1,000 people found that 37 percent of likely U.S. voters fear their federal government. Almost half, 46 percent, do not, but 17 percent are on the fence.

More than half, 54 percent, consider the federal government a threat to individual liberty, while only 22 percent see the government as a defender of individual rights, down 8 percent just since November.

Two-thirds, 67 percent, say the government is a special interest group that just looks out for itself.

And why wouldn’t intelligent people be afraid of our government?

We have a president who freely prances around the Constitution, rewriting laws, ignoring Congress and picking and choosing which laws to follow, yet he gets away with it.

In Congress, we see a “go-along” culture in which so-called leaders single out and try to punish anyone (Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, etc.) who stands up and says, “Hey, wait a minute, let’s talk about this issue, guys.”

Throughout the government, we see a culture of bullying and armed thuggery by federal bureaucrats and elected officials who label anyone or any group that stands in the way, disagrees or opposes the agenda of the day “domestic terrorists.” (Yeah, I’m talking about you, Harry Reid, and your orc army at the Bureau of Land Management.)

It’s a culture of corruptocracy that has oozed its way down to local politics, as well.

Consider the case of Peoria, Illinois, Mayor Jim Ardis, a tyro Hitler who sent the police to track down the operators of a parody Twitter account who regularly made fun of the Peoria emperor and his new clothes.

The police raided a home, detained three people but did not arrest anyone, and confiscated a whole bunch of obviously illegal electronics like iPods and two Xboxes.

With that and the Showdown at Bundy Ranch fresh in mind, how could any American who isn’t in a legalized-marijuana-induced stupor not be fearful of our current government?

And what about the myriad lesser, but still heinous, daily crimes of our government, like forcing people to buy health insurance they don’t want, stifling jobs to check another item off the Democrats’ bucket list, putting bakeries out of business because they don’t want to make a cake for a homosexual wedding, arresting children for bringing a pocket knife to school, and issuing report after report declaring ordinary Americans to be terrorist threats?

Every day, we seem to get one jack-booted step closer to a full-blown dictatorship — for our own good, of course.

The Bundy Ranch Showdown demonstrated how close our government has taken us to the edge. For several moments there in Clark County, Nevada, there was a real chance of bloodshed.

That would be playing right into the government’s hands, though. All the law necessary is in place to allow President Obama to declare martial law throughout the land given the proper impetus. A massacre of federal agents or U.S. citizens would do it.

The Department of Homeland Security hasn’t been distributing billions of rounds of ammunition and surplus armored vehicles to federal and local agencies for nothing. DHS officials have pooh-poohed every concern raised about such an elaborate armory in the hands of everyone from city cops to postal inspectors, but rest assured there’s a reason for everything.

Afraid of your government? You should always fear the government that fears its citizens.