We are in a danger zone. Every week, every day, often several times a day, just when (after all this time) we think we’re beyond being shocked, the President or one of his aides or some of his supporters does or says something that shocks us anew. When you think it can’t get worse, we learn that Donald Trump paid zero taxes for years. And then, when you think it can’t get worse than that, we witness that sick debate performance, which was nothing less than a deliberate attempt to shatter our democratic process into a million pieces. And after that, we learned that he is literally sick—a fact that it seems likely he was going to try to hide from us had a Bloomberg reporter not broken the news of Hope Hicks’s positive diagnosis.
And as we brace for an Election Day and a post-Election Day period that promises to be more tumultuous than any since 1860, we exist in a nation on tenterhooks, frighteningly divided, heavily armed (at least half of us), and mortified to learn that we are unsure whether our democracy will survive this.
There’s a lot we don’t know. But there is one thing we certainly do know: who’s to blame. Ever since Trump announced his candidacy, let alone became President, he has waged war on the Constitution, our laws, our norms, on democracy itself—indeed, on America. Because America as a political idea is nothing more than those things: a system of frameworks and laws and customs that has, first of all, lasted 243 years, and second, has produced a system of government that has been rife with failure but has shown always a resilience; a capacity to self-correct.
But we have learned in this brutal age the surprising extent to which that framework, and those laws and customs, are contingent—dependent on people who will agree to uphold them. They’re dependent, that is, on restraint. And that is something Donald Trump doesn’t know or do. We know that he and his propaganda network and his attorney general will do everything they can to steal the election. It’s baked in. It’s terrifying, and sad beyond words.
We at Democracy felt the times, then, demanded that we take this unprecedented step and jump out of our normal quarterly calendar and publish a special issue devoted entirely to the topic of Donald Trump vs. democracy. You will recognize many of the names of the 35 contributors to this issue, not least the first one. But they all have something important to say. We think it’s as thorough a catalogue of Trump’s sins against our democratic faith as you’ll find anywhere—although it also could have been twice this long.