Our republic is over two centuries old. An adolescent compared to other civilizations, but nothing to sneeze at.
One of the things we've prided ourselves on is that every four years we hold an election for the highest office in the land. The winner of that election assumes the mantle of the presidency. And all this is done without resort to violent force. It is just assumed, as part of our very fabric, that the loser will concede to the winner, and the winner will have a chance to implement his or her program in the normal course of politicking.
Of course, there was one break in that record. Slave-owning southern Democrats didn't accept the legitimacy of Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860. That led to four years of the bloodiest war Americans ever fought.
We are on that precipice again.
Lincoln saw the country through the cauldron of civil war. Now, the heir to his party is bruiting dark conspiracies that the election will be illegitimate, stolen, invalid. The nominee of his party for the Presidency is questioning the very bona fides of our democratic system, where votes are cast, counted, and verified through several layers. He's telling his followers that the fix is in, and that if he loses it will be due to a nefarious act.
I don't think I can stress the egregious nature of this. Not in over 150 years has one political party made clear that it won't accept the results of a free and open election if those results don't go its way. And, yes, I lay the blame at the feet of the party. It has propped up its imbecilic yet dangerous nominee every step of the way. Its leaders could come out forcefully, with a lion's roar, reaffirming our democratic system, that there is no fraud, no rigging. But to do that would be to unknot a skein of dependency on the brownshirts who have propelled their nominee, people who are the only ones keeping the party alive. Without them, the party would vanish from the political scene. So, when Hillary Clinton wins the presidential election, as it now likely looks, a percentage of the country will believe that she did so only through fraud. And the party representing that population has done absolutely nothing to dissuade it of its belief.
I'm glad that Donald Trump is being brought low by his own past excesses. There's a karmic justice to that. But let's not allow our schadenfreude to blind us to the real issue glaring at us. He is laying the groundwork to cast Mrs. Clinton's election as fraudulent among his believers. They're not a majority of the country, but enough to cause unknowable problems. A country where 40% of the electorate is convinced that its government is illegitimate is a recipe for strife. And his Republican Party is doing nothing to counter his rash assertions. Party leaders such as Sen. Jeff Sessions are stoking that resentment.
I don't envy Mrs. Clinton for the job she will have. She may face even more vitriol than even Pres. Obama has, just because Trump's deplorables have been brought to a fever pitch. It would be a Greek tragedy if the world's oldest democracy was brought low by a two-bit reality star. We have to make sure it isn't.