Last night’s Republican Convention was the single most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen in American politics. Politicians literally arguing that American leaders are in league with enemies (and the devil!) and the crowd shouting to jail them.
This is naked authoritarianism, and it is on our shores. It is here. The only question in this election is whether the majority of us who reject this dangerous mindset — which always ends in enormous tragedy — can stand together against it despite our differences.
Like the clans of Westeros will one day presumably have to unite against the white walkers, we need everyone from socialists to progressives to libertarians to sensible conservatives to come together for the sake of our small d democratic system. Hillary Clinton is many things, but she will not call to jail Donald Trump for Trump University. She will not try to curb freedom of the press, as Trump has said he would do, or attack the independent judiciary, as Trump has already done, or encourage her loyalists to commit violence against her political opponents, like the brown shirts of the past. She was not and is not my first choice for president, but she will maintain the fundamentals of our democratic system, and in the face of this horror, with the echoes of terrible history resonating across the country, that is enough.
For those who have not read the New Yorker piece on Trump’s ghostwriter for The Art of the Deal, please note the key takeaway: The author, who witnessed Trump up close for an extended period of time, who saw how Trump operates and made up a great deal of Trump’s deal-maker persona, said that his former boss is 100 percent an actual sociopath. He said he saw how Trump is unable to let anything go when his thin skin has been injured, and said he thinks it’s entirely possible, if not probable, that in an effort to show his “toughness,” Trump could end up using nukes.
As that writer put it, it could literally be the end of civilization. It sounds melodramatic, but that’s the kind of risk you take if you put an authoritarian with major personality disorders in charge of the world’s largest nuclear power, and I saw nothing from the Salem-style mobs last night to call his analysis into question.
There are things that are deeper than political ideology. There are beliefs that matter more than partisan grievances. As Alexander Hamilton recognized in this country’s infancy when he endorsed his most-hated rival, Thomas Jefferson, over a self-serving sociopath named Aaron Burr, the preservation of the nation’s fundamental institutions (and today the world’s) are more important than any particular political issue. Or as my comedian friend Toby Muresianu puts it, “I hate the Yankees but I’d rather them win the World Series than not have baseball next year.”
The stakes arguably haven’t been this high since 1964, two years after the Cuban Missile Crisis. I hope that we all soon start to act like it. Then, when the threat is vanquished, at least temporarily, we can laugh at the ridiculous farce at the heart of this dangerous moment.
A version of this post originally appeared on Medium.