For the past nearly 250 years, when the United States faced a grave threat, our people rose up and sacrificed whatever it took to defeat it. From the American Revolution to the Civil War to the menace of the Nazis or Soviet communism, we were willing to do what we had to do to defend what we valued most about this country.
Today, as it did once before, in 1861, the greatest peril confronting the country comes from within. Then as now, it was a threat that sought to divide America, and it was a threat founded in racism, contempt for our Constitution, and a twisted sense of what was worth preserving from our past.
The new threat, of course, is led by Donald Trump.
In recent days, we have watched as the vast majority of leaders of the Republican Party, including many of Trump’s former foes, from Marco Rubio to Ted Cruz, have lined up behind the twice-impeached, frequently indicted former president. Nikki Haley can stay in the race as long as she likes, but the primaries are now effectively over. The worst president in our history is, arguably, stronger within the leadership ranks of the Republican Party than he has ever been. He is now the most dangerous presidential candidate in U.S. history. As a consequence, the great question before the rest of us is whether enough of us are ready to do whatever is necessary to defeat this threat as we have all those that have come before.
Sadly, there is reason to believe that this time we may not meet the challenge. Right now, Donald Trump is one of two people who could be our next president. The race, at the moment, between him and President Joe Biden, is too close to call.
That it seems a choice at all is what should mortify us. It is a sign that many in our society are blind to reality. And it is a sign that the rest of us, who understand both reality and what is at stake, have not yet done our job communicating to one another, to our friends, family, and communities what must be done to defend our country and our system.
Joe Biden by any objective metric has been one of the most successful presidents in modern U.S. history. He has led the creation of more major legislative initiatives benefiting the American people than any president in 60 years. He oversaw the creation of more than 14 million jobs during his first three years in office. He has brought down inflation and reduced the prices of vital medicines to affordable levels. He has restored American leadership worldwide, expanded our vital alliances like NATO, and stood up to our enemies. All presidents face challenges and make missteps. But it is hard to deny that in the wake of the U.S. economic recovery, the passage of the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, the CHIPs and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act, the expansion of NATO, and the creation of new Indo-Pacific alliances, Biden’s record is formidable.
That a president with this record is in a horse race with a candidate who is a menace to the country, who led an insurrection, who is a pathological liar whom courts have found to be a fraud and a rapist, and who has no real ideas, no credible policy proposals, no record of actually ever achieving anything for the American people is chilling.
You would have thought that the sight of mobs carrying Trump flags and weapons and chanting for the death of Vice President Mike Pence on January 6, 2021, would have been alarm enough. You would have thought the same of Trump’s Access Hollywood tape, in which he confessed his impulse to abuse women. You would have thought the two dozen women who accused him of abuse would have had that effect. Even if none of those things were quite warning enough, you would have thought the findings in the E. Jean Carroll case would have been enough. After all, respected federal judge Lew Kaplan wrote, “The fact that Mr. Trump sexually abused—indeed, raped—Ms. Carroll has been conclusively established and is binding in this case.”
It should have been enough. But so far, it has not been.
You would have thought that Trump reaching out on national television to our Russian adversaries for aid during the 2016 campaign would have been enough. You would have thought the conclusive findings of every major U.S. intelligence agency that Russia sought to aid Trump’s campaign would have been enough. You would have thought that Robert Mueller’s finding 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice by Trump would have been enough. You would have thought Trump kowtowing to Vladimir Putin and taking his word over that of our intelligence and law enforcement communities would have been enough. You would have thought his illegally withholding aid to Ukraine to seek dirt on Joe Biden would have been enough. You would have thought his impeachment for that would have been enough.
You would have thought his second impeachment for January 6 would have been enough. You would have thought his continually spreading “the Big Lie” about our elections would have been enough. You would have thought that the fact he sought to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power between U.S. political leaders for the first time in our history would have been enough. You would have thought that his continuing to advocate for the January 6 rioters and his promises to pardon these “hostages” would have been enough.
You would have thought that indictments on 91 different criminal counts would have been enough. How could they not be, given that he stole national secrets, defrauded banks and insurance companies, and orchestrated a nationwide effort to do the same to voters?
Or perhaps it would be that he increased the national debt by over $8 trillion, that his only major legislative accomplishment in four years in office was a tax cut that benefited the rich. Or perhaps it would be that he, as he so often brags, is the man behind stripping away the rights of women to control their own bodies, to get an abortion if they need one, that would have sent the message that he should never again be a candidate for any office of any kind in the United States.
Or, finally, after all that, perhaps it would have been Trump’s promises to be a dictator from day one, to fire all who are not loyal to him, to throw his opponents and media critics in jail, to round up undocumented immigrants into concentration camps, that would lead some, more than a tiny handful within his own party, to say: No, this is too far. This is what America has stood against, fought against since our founding. But no.
Trump wants to be a king like the one we overthrew. He wants to trash the Constitution, divide America, and promote white supremacy, as did enemies from within 160 years ago. He embraces the tactics of the fascists we fought in World War II. He is publicly an ally and part of global right-wing nationalist movements.
He acts like our enemies. Not like any one of them but like all of those we have ever faced combined into a single threat even more insidious than the others.
So, ask yourself, is that enough to make you do more than you have done? Is that enough to commit for the next 10 months to do more than you have ever done during an election year? To give more? To canvas more? To spread the word more? To help get voters to the polls? To ensure every member of your family, your friends, your co-workers do the same? The stakes are too high to do less than everything you can. The stakes are too high to allow this man to continue to play any role in American public life.