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Republicans: Exact a political price on Democrats or accept irrelevance

Republicans: Exact a political price on Democrats or accept irrelevance
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM / Unsplash

By the measure of most polls, Donald Trump is the leading candidate to become the next president of the United States. As of last Thursday, he also stands convicted on 34 felony counts. The former president will not be sentenced until July 11, four days before the Republican National Convention, where presumably he will be nominated as the GOP’s standard-bearer.

Joe Biden, or whoever runs his social media accounts, posted, “No one is above the law,” on X (formerly Twitter) in response to the sham conviction of his political opponent. That’s an amazing statement for the father of whoremongering, crack-smoking, money-laundering Hunter Biden to make, but the president did so without hesitation. The left has abandoned any remaining pretensions to constitutional rule and has embraced a very simple mantra: “For my friends, anything; for my enemies, the law.”Subscribe

The United States prides itself on the rule of law and the orderly transfer of power. Our ruling class lectures the leaders of other nations on the importance of constitutional order, liberal democracy, and human rights. So how did the shining city on a hill devolve into a system so corrupt that it would make a Third World dictator blush? One of the main reasons is the conservative aversion to basic political opposition.

In Federalist 51, James Madison recognized that men were not angels and that simply appealing to their better nature was insufficient. “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition,” Madison wrote. But this political equilibrium cannot be struck if one side has made shunning the use of power its only guiding principle. A balance of power is always predicated on the idea that if one side violates the norms, that side will face a reciprocal exercise of power. Ronald Reagan understood that the doctrine of mutually assured destruction depended on the credible threat that if a red line was crossed, he would act to restore order by exercising terrible power.

Not only have conservative leaders abandoned the idea of checking ambition with ambition, they have also sacralized the principle of total surrender by demonizing any exercise of power. Conservative commentators have turned politics, which has always been a contact sport, into a debate club, believing that the best argument wins the day.

An existential threat

While America’s founders certainly believed in free speech, they understood that ultimately only power, not lofty speeches, can check power. Persuasion rests on a shared religion, morality, and history. The farther away a polity gets from these organic bonds, the less capable people are of mediating their differences through discussion and consensus.

Many people, even some on the right, hate Donald Trump. They hate his crass personal conduct, they hate his response to the pandemic, they hate his weakness in the face of a security state that intends to destroy him. I am not here to defend these undeniable aspects of his character, but Trump is only the most visible target of a wider campaign to criminalize political opposition in the United States.

Joe Biden’s Justice Department on Friday succeeded in getting a 73-year-old woman sentenced to over two years in prison for praying during a protest at an abortion clinic. Due to her age and medical condition, her family is worried that she will die in custody. Douglass Mackey is currently facing jail time for posting a meme that insulted Hillary Clinton. Trump’s lawyers and many former officials inside his administration have faced prosecution as an intimidation tactic to make serving the former president impossible.

Any political party that seriously opposed the current administration would understand this attack on its voters and its presidential candidate as an existential threat, but the GOP is has done nothing. Besides the impotent pointing and sputtering that has become the standard Republican response, no action has been taken.

Many representatives and senators have made outraged tweets, but this is insufficient. The average voter vents on social media because he has no other place to be heard. If officeholders resort to the same behavior, it can only mean one of three things: They are cowards unwilling to take action, they have no real power and lie to their constituents about it, or they are complicit in the destruction of our nation.

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