34. He is trying to bludgeon the nation into reelecting him

We may debate it ad infinitum, but in all likelihood we will never be able to say definitively whether the 2016 election was legitimate. Trying to pin down what legitimacy even means is a tall order in a nation with a patchwork of differing voting laws and an Electoral College that repeatedly hands a landslide victory to the loser of the popular vote. It is true that the Republican Party has been engaging in a variety of voter suppression tactics for many years; they were hard at work on that four years ago, and DT’s campaign played an active role in it. It is also true that the voting systems in some states are notoriously insecure and vulnerable to hacking, with no method for ensuring an accurate recount when one is indicated. And it is true that there was foreign interference—certainly by Russia, possibly by other countries—in the run-up to the election. These things we know. We cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the election was stolen, so we have little choice but to acquit DT of that particular accusation. Things are different this time around.

An apt metaphor for the current situation: DT is holding a gun to the head of the nation, saying, “Reelect me or else.” Like voters in other representative democracies, American voters tend not to go along with threats to their freedom, so it is far from a given that the president will succeed in his attempted extortion. The problem is that his gun is loaded and cocked and the safety is off. It looks increasingly probable that violence will occur in relation to the election. If this comes to pass, and particularly if it is widespread, the situation may quickly spiral out of control.

This sort of scenario is common in countries without a history of free and fair elections. Not so in the United States. Although its history includes the systematic disenfranchisement of certain groups, the U.S. has an enviable track record when it comes to elections. No other nation has afforded a sizable segment of its population the right to elect its leaders of the course of 232 years. In this regard, we were a role model for the world. Now, thanks to the ministrations of its sociopathic chief of state, we are liable to be an object of the world’s pity.

Nevertheless, we must vote—and we must fight to make every vote count. Doing so gives us our best chance, perhaps our only chance, to avert a full-scale disaster that sees the nation swept into another long and bloody civil war. Make no mistake: if DT were reelected, the violence he seeks to incite would not be averted, only postponed. He would be emboldened only further and perhaps would become unstoppable. There is no more urgent reason than this to vote him out of office.

Just say no to extortion

Threats are at the core of any extortionist’s modus operandi, and DT is no exception. Depending on the exact situation, there may be several reasonable responses to such threats. In this case, there is only valid response: standing up to the extortionist. Too much is at stake to try any sort of appeasement.

This is not about calling his bluff: he is perfectly sincere in his threats, and he means to carry them out. This is about looking a particularly nasty criminal in the eye and telling him, “No, we will not accede to your demands.” The shit may hit the fan, it’s true, but the alternative would be far worse.