I think it may be different this time @bstern. I think the lawlessness is serious enough, and the failures of the Ford/Nixon pardon now clear enough, that we’ll instead have a prosecution, just to make clear that this kind of behavior really will have consequences and that there will be respect for the rule of law. Two things have become clear over the past 40 years:
Whatever “healing” and “coming back together of the country” was supposed to be allowed by the Nixon pardon, the same troglodyte, culture-warrior, neo-confederate base that was Nixon’s “silent majority”, was in no way brought back into the fold (indeed, they came roaring back in '80). They just were forced into silence, but Trump is their Tribune - he really does speak for them, heart and soul. There’s no dog-whistle there, and no coded language (ala Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes). They aren’t going anyplace, and pardoning Trump won’t do anything to de-escalate.
It has become evident that a huge part of our problem today is the loss of faith in democratic institutions. The rule of law is the foundation of democratic institutions…it’s the courts and the equal applications of law. All Trump has done is to project his own criminal behavior onto his opponents (eg, “lock her up”, Hunter Biden in Ukraine), generally before his opponents point out Trump’s criminal behavior, and the disaffected non-voting public, and a huge swath of low information voters go right along with it, because - certainly since Vietnam, but really for our entire history - there’s been a (correct) strong sense that we live in a society where the rules are class-dependent: the justice you get depends on what you can pay for.
I don’t think the Democrats can afford to allow that erosion to continue because if we let this turn into a fight between just elites, we’re going to lose - more (financial) elites are, ultimately, going to vote their pocketbooks (tax breaks). If we want our vision of a healthy democracy/society (which I personally ultimately believe enrichens all of us, including the investor/rentier class, the most) to succeed, it must be a society grounded in a full, participatory citizenship. So many people just quit bothering because they lose all faith in the process (and this is the real goal of the “libertarians” like the Kochs: persuade people that attempting to use the government as a means of accomplishing their goals is pointless, because in fact, government is the only thing that constrains the "might makes right’ - network effect - of people like the Kochs).
On the tactical: I think what we want is to have Congress continue it’s oversight functions, investigating and documenting - preparing the cases for the prosecutors - and biding our time, until we get a change in administration, and then, through a series of well-documented criminal referrals, get a non-captured Justice Department to start actually bringing people to jail. Manafort-Stone are just the first; we need that to be followed with Trump, and anybody who was colluding (pretty much the entire cabinet). If there are people like McGuire, who are patriots and were placed in untenable and conflicting positions (legally), then trade their testimony for non-prosecution.
Some recent Obama critique I read said that a lot of people who worked for him in '08 basically felt like they’d finally won the '72 election…that Obama would deliver on what they’d hoped to achieve with McGovern.
I think Trump represents for the DixieCrat/GOP neo-Confederate base what they were hoping they’d get from Nixon in '72 - a rollback of the Civil Rights advances of the 60s - not just for African Americans, but advances for women, and real equal protection of the laws for all citizens. These people will never come back “into the fold” or make common cause with the rest of us. They have to be crushed politically, and with the loss of their political power, lose the preferential treatment they’ve long received as first-class citizens (the relative cost of the current farm bailout vs. the auto bailout in '09 are the most egregious recent example, and it all stems from the pro-rural gerrymander embedded in the constitution as a result of slavery). Eventually, as a real minority, they’ll lose their network-effect power to pull in new adherents. We won’t change their minds, but we can free the country of them through attrition (look at the generational shifts on wedge issues to see this effect clearly).
And on the thrust of my main comment: a lot of that commentary about '72 in '08 was about how disaffected those left/Democratic voters were when Obama failed to go after the Shrub administration (and to immediately confront McConnell, et al, with the same level of scorched earth opposition). I don’t think Democrats can afford not to prosecute.