In Seven Days in May, as I recall it, President Kirk Douglas, having foiled a coup threat, decides not to go public with the truth, reasoning that even the idea that a coup was possible would do immense irreparable ham to American democracy.
We are almost at a similar moment.
With Nate Silvers’s Polls-Only forecast having moved from exactly 50% chance of a Trump victory to 49% within the last hour, we have to think about what it means for the future that an obviously vicious hateful, unrestrained and unrestrainable megalomaniac, who is also facing serious questions about his possible relationship or symbiosis with a hostile aggressive foreign power, has been able to get even this level of support. This is true even if he is ultimately defeated.
Our ability to trust the democratic process is already deeply damaged, damaged perhaps more than at any time since the founding of our Republic.
The only way that the damage can be repaired is if Trump is repudiated so massively that any association with him, any hint of similarity, becomes a political death sentence. This requires not just a repudiation at the Presidential level, but also that those who have supported him, those who have failed to stand up to him, those who have treated him seriously in any way other than as a threat, are held permanently to account.
One can argue about exactly at what point this was all so obvious that excuses by those enablers listed above cannot be accepted, regardless of later changes by them. For me it was the attack on judicial independence, or maybe the mocking of the reporter for his handicap. But there can be no argument that that point is long past.
If this retribution does not come to pass, it will not be long before the analysts will start asking, “so what candidate can appeal to those Trump appealed to, without the rough edges,” and we will be in deeper trouble even than we appear to be now.
That’s how high the stakes are, and will remain.