One thing I have argued in the past, long and hard, is that one thing the Republic cannot survive is the use of lawfare to “punish” political opposition, or even the appearance of doing so That’s not original with me. I got it originally from the late Jerry Pournelle (and I expect it wasn’t original with him). That’s why Ford pardoning Nixon was the right thing to do even if we were to grant him being guilty of everything he was accused of (and let’s just say I’m more than a little dubious about that). That’s why I argued to let it go when Clinton left the White House, and again when Obama left–they were out of office. Better for the nation to let it go than to give even the appearance of political reprisal through the courts.
You see, one of the cornerstones of the Republic is the peaceful transition of power from one Congress to another, from one Administration to another, from one Party to another. But allow even the appearance that those losing power will be punished by law and that goes away. The party in power then cannot afford to lose power and will, therefore, do anything they must to retain it. After all, if people think that “criminally punish your predecessors” is on the table, they can expect that to be turned around against them should they be the ones losing power.
If any of the current rhetoric goes beyond rhetoric, those in power are saying, quite clearly, that they consider such reprisals on the table and that the tables will be turned on them should they be the ones losing power in some future election.
They have to know this. So that leads to the question of why are they willing to take that risk?
I submit that they don’t see it as a risk. They know what would happen should they lose, but they don’t plan on ever losing. They’ll do whatever it takes to retain power. Just like they did whatever it took to gain it.
In which case, the political reprisals aren’t the herald of the death of the Republic.
They are its obituary.