Imagine that your party has stacked the judiciary with ideologues willing to aggressively pursue your political agenda. The Supreme Court, having ruled in favor of electoral authoritarianism, is on the brink of making progressive policy impossible. What would you do if you narrowly lose one case?
If you’re playing the odds, you take the loss. The last thing you want to do is create a precedent for the executive branch going full Jackson. But, of course, this all assumes that your name isn’t “Donald Trump.”
How do so many Republicans justify Trump’s loose relationship with the rule of law—whether it’s declaring national emergencies to circumvent the express wishes of congress, interfering in criminal investigations, or the kinds of shenanigans surrounding the census? They claim—often pointing to Obama’s own stretching of executive powers—that Democrats would do exactly the same thing.
This a convenient fiction. In truth, Republican officials count on Democrats being responsible. And why shouldn’t they? When it comes to gerrymandering, some Democratic states will go the way of Maryland. But others will follow the lead of California, or stand on principle as the Governor of New Jersey has, to date, done. For all the anger, a lot of Democrats see themselves as the defenders of liberal democracy… and would like to keep it that way.
Still, it’s getting to the point where even the hosts as FOX News must recognize that conservatives are playing with fire. Democrats are already talking about packing the courts and using emergency powers to implement their agenda. A future Democratic president is likely to face a large number of adverse, unpopular rulings from the bench. The Republicans may be the party of teenage edgelords, but the Democrats won’t be the party of grownups forever.