Trump, DeSantis, Orban and the use of political payback

Probably the best-known recent efforts have come from Florida, where Republican lawmakers voted to revoke Disney’s special tax status after the company condemned Gov. Ron DeSantis’s education law (known by critics as “Don’t Say Gay”). This sounded familiar. Last summer, Mr. Orban passed a law banning the display of L.G.B.T.Q. content to minors.

Retribution is the method of the bully. By punishing opponents for minor or even imagined infractions, all but the bravest opponents slink away. And it generates compliance. That’s precisely why it is a useful tactic. Only a few need to be targeted for many to toe the party line. Payback also generates loyalty. Friends stay close when they benefit from government largess.

In Hungary, this is all legal, because Mr. Orban doesn’t play by opponents’ rules. He makes his own. As a clever lawyer, Mr. Orban knows that if he can legalize anything, he can use state resources to punish enemies and benefit friends without liability.

Mr. Orban’s party controls everything that matters in Hungary, so he controls the law. Like Mr. Orban, Mr. DeSantis is also a clever lawyer — and for now, his party controls the offices of secretary of state, attorney general and both chambers of the state legislature in Florida.

If Mr. Trump is succeeded by a more disciplined party leader who can control all three branches and lock in partisan advantage by law, then payback could become the currency of the realm.