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The Federalist’s Sean Davis Calls for Prosecution Lists of Democrats: A Comparative Historical Analysis

The Federalist’s Sean Davis Calls for Prosecution Lists of Democrats: A Comparative Historical Analysis

Sean Davis, CEO and co-founder of The Federalist, recently called for Republicans to draw up lists of Democrats to imprison.

This reaction to Donald Trump’s conviction is an extreme escalation in political rhetoric. It invites a comparison to the proscriptions initiated by Marc Antony during the decline of the Roman Republic. By examining this historical precedent, we can understand the potential dangers of political purges and their impact on democratic institutions.

Sean Davis’s Call for Retribution

In the wake of Donald Trump’s conviction, Sean Davis took to social media to advocate for punitive measures against Democrat officials. His statements included:

Creating Lists for Imprisonment: Davis urged Republicans to list Democrat officials for prosecution, similar to how candidates in 2016 released lists of potential Supreme Court nominees. He stated, “In 2024, I want to see lists of which Democrat officials are going to be put in prison.”

Accusations of Treason: He labeled the actions against Trump as a “treasonous attack on our entire constitutional republic,” implying that Democrat officials engaged in criminal activities warranting severe punishment.

Call to Prosecutors: Davis encouraged state attorneys general and prosecutors to draft charges, indictments, and warrants against Democrat officials, suggesting that they take immediate legal action against those involved.

Historical Justification: Referencing Frederick Douglass, Davis mentioned the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box as essential to American liberty. He claimed that Democrats “stole the 2020 election” and ran a “Soviet show trial” to imprison their top political opponent in 2024.

Marc Antony’s Proscriptions

To fully appreciate the implications of Davis’s rhetoric, it is instructive to look at the historical example of Marc Antony’s proscriptions. Following Julius Caesar’s assassination, Marc Antony, along with Octavian (later Augustus) and Lepidus, formed the Second Triumvirate and initiated proscriptions to consolidate power and eliminate opposition. Key aspects of the proscriptions included:

Creating Hit Lists: The Triumvirs compiled lists of political enemies, including senators and equestrians, who were declared outlaws. These individuals were stripped of their property and citizenship, and many were executed.

Widespread Violence and Instability: The proscriptions led to significant bloodshed and chaos within the Roman Republic. Prominent figures such as Cicero were killed, and the social fabric of Rome was deeply damaged.

Long-term Consequences: The proscriptions contributed to the eventual fall of the Roman Republic. By concentrating power in the hands of a few and eliminating political rivals, they paved the way for the emergence of the Roman Empire under Augustus.

However, the violence and turmoil unleashed by the proscriptions ultimately undid Marc Antony. Initially, the proscriptions helped solidify the Triumvirate’s control, but they also engendered deep resentment and fear among the Roman populace and political class. As Antony’s rivalry with Octavian intensified, his support base eroded. The brutality of the proscriptions became a symbol of his tyranny and contributed to his eventual downfall. After losing the Battle of Actium to Octavian’s forces, Antony’s political and military power collapsed. In 30 B.C., facing inevitable defeat, Marc Antony took his own life, marking the end of his political ambitions and the consolidation of power by Octavian, who would become Augustus, the first Roman Emperor.

Comparative Analysis

Nature of the Lists

Sean Davis: Advocated for compiling lists of Democrat officials to be prosecuted and imprisoned, portraying it as a necessary response to perceived political corruption and treason.
Marc Antony: Compiled lists for political purges, targeting enemies to eliminate opposition and consolidate power within the Triumvirate.

Justification and Rhetoric

Sean Davis: Framed his call for lists as a defense of American liberty and constitutional principles, using historical references like Frederick Douglass’s “three boxes” to justify his stance.

Marc Antony: Justified the proscriptions as a means to stabilize and secure the new regime after Caesar’s assassination, framing it as a necessary step to protect the state from internal enemies.
Impact and Consequences

Sean Davis: While the actual impact of Davis’s call remains speculative, such rhetoric risks deepening political divisions and undermining democratic institutions by promoting retribution over reconciliation.

Marc Antony: The proscriptions resulted in immediate violence and long-term instability. The death of political figures and the fear instilled among the populace weakened the Roman Republic, contributing to its eventual transformation into an autocratic empire. The violence unleashed ultimately backfired, leading to Antony’s downfall and the rise of Augustus.

The Dangers of Unleashing Violence

The history of political violence shows that once unleashed, it becomes nearly impossible to control and often consumes those who initiate it. Marc Antony’s proscriptions are a stark example:

Widespread Violence: The proscriptions led to the deaths of many prominent Romans, including Cicero. The climate of fear and retribution destabilized the Roman state.

Erosion of Trust: The violent purges destroyed trust within the political class and among the citizenry, leading to long-term instability and the weakening of the Republic’s institutions.

Personal Downfall: Marc Antony himself was eventually undone by the violence he unleashed. The proscriptions created a cycle of retribution that contributed to his loss of support and eventual defeat by Octavian.

The Importance of Democratic Solutions

Political solutions through democratic, good faith, judicial processes, despite their imperfections, are far preferable to unleashing violence. Democratic institutions provide mechanisms for accountability, mediation, and peaceful transitions of power. The rule of law ensures that grievances can be addressed within a structured framework, preventing the descent into chaos and retribution that characterized Antony’s Rome.

Democratic Accountability: Institutions like the judiciary and electoral processes allow for peaceful resolution of conflicts and grievances

Stability and Trust: A commitment to democratic principles fosters stability and trust among citizens and political actors.

Avoiding Retribution Cycles: By adhering to the rule of law and democratic norms, societies can avoid the destructive cycles of retribution and violence that undermine political stability and personal security.


Sean Davis’s call for Republicans to draw up lists of Democrats to imprison is a troubling reflection of the increasingly divisive and punitive nature of contemporary American politics. By drawing parallels to Marc Antony’s proscriptions, we can see the potential dangers of such political purges.

Both instances involve targeting political opponents under the guise of protecting the state, but history teaches us that these actions often lead to greater instability, violence, and the weakening of democratic institutions. Antony’s ultimate undoing serves as a cautionary tale about the perils of retributive justice and the importance of preserving democratic principles. As we consider Davis’s rhetoric, it is crucial to heed the lessons of the past and strive for political reconciliation and the preservation of democratic governance.