America's second-worst scenario

Here is the nub of our predicament. Donald Trump attempted democracide, and he had help. The victim survived but suffered grievous wounds. American democracy now faces a long convalescence in an environment of ongoing attacks. Trump has not exhausted his malignant powers, and co-conspirators remain at large.

I do not mean to be taken figuratively. The president of the United States lost an election and really did try with all his might to keep the winner from replacing him. He did his level best to overthrow our system of government, and tens of millions of Americans marched behind him. But a coup d’état in America had seemed so unlikely a thing, and it was so buffoonishly attempted, that the political establishment had trouble taking it seriously. That was a big mistake.

It is still too soon to assess this moment in historic perspective, but we seem to be living through something like a next-to-worst-case scenario. Trump failed in the end—if we have reached the end—to maintain an illegal grip on power. But his attempted coup made too much headway for comfort, and his supporters are far from finished with their assault on majority rule.

Even so, there is good news to be found in the manner of Trump’s defeat. The system held. Enough officials did the right thing, when it counted, to fend off the overthrow of our government. And in this we can see a path forward.

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