Republicans’ asymmetric warfare threatens our institutions

To the editor: The Dec. 18 Eagle editorial “Decent Republicans must choose — party or country?” raises an important question, to which one must add another: Is it too late?

Here it is important to recall that Donald Trump was hardly the first Republican to defy the rules of the democratic game. Who can forget Mitch McConnell’s assertion in 2010 that “(t)he single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president?” Or the scorched earth policy of Newt Gingrich, when he took down his predecessor as Speaker of the House in 1994 and proceeded, as Princeton historian Julian Zelizer aptly described it in his recent book, to “burn down the house?”

In this regard, Donald Trump is a symptom more than the cause of a most worrisome trend: the death of democracy. But he certainly exposed and exacerbated the weak points of the American democratic order. In their 2018 book “How Democracies Die,” Harvard political scientists Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky point to two key unwritten principles that stand alongside written constitutional guarantees in upholding the American democratic tradition: mutual toleration by the two political parties for one another; and forbearance by those in power who feel constrained to deploy all of the institutional power at their disposal.

Will Republicans continue to throw mutual toleration and forbearance to the wind? Let us only hope that a moment of reckoning is upon us and that Republicans will climb out of the deep abyss into which they have descended to regain a measure of sanity and respect for democracy.

David N. Myers, Becket