1. Prosecuting Trump Is the Least Bad Option
We should be clear-eyed about what the January 6th Committee’s referral yesterday represents: It is a tragedy for American democracy.
The prospect of having a former president subject to criminal prosecution opens a Pandora’s Box of future dangers and is almost certain to make our politics more dangerous. There will likely be abuses of criminal prosecutions in the future.
The fact that this former president is already a declared candidate for president in 2024 makes the tragedy larger because it encompasses not just the past and the future, but the present, too.
There are no good outcomes on offer. Consider them:
The government chooses not to prosecute: which incentivizes future attempts to overturn elections and legitimizes the stoking of political violence.
The government prosecutes and loses: which both legitimizes the stoking of political violence and antagonizes the passions of more than a third of the country.
The government prosecutes and wins: which creates open season for using the government to pursue political enemies, throws the 2024 Republican primary into disarray, and turns Trump into a martyr for his movement.
There is no happy ending here, no scenario in which a rough comity returns to our political life. In every path, the danger to democracy increases.
Are people like you and I vindicated in our warnings and analysis over the last several years? Sure.
But that’s like being on a bus and warning that the driver is dangerous while getting told to keep quiet by the other passengers. When the bus drives off the road, you get to be correct. But you’re still in a bus crash. You’re not going to be happy about it.
There are two things to be thankful for in the midst of this ongoing tragedy.