(Tom Toles)
Editorial cartoonist

What a long way we have traveled. Who knew that the escalator upon which Donald Trump descended into the presidential campaign would take us so low?

The capitulation of Trump’s onetime opponents and the relentless moving of the goalposts of what is considered beyond the pale in American politics have brought us to this. To Republicans undermining independent investigations of Trump. To the firing of an FBI director for investigating Trump. To threats to fire his replacement. To functionally placing Trump beyond the reach of any law. To Roy Moore, an accused child molester — a man who believes that his interpretation of the Bible supersedes the Constitution on questions of law. A man who wants to repeal all the amendments after the 10th, including the one guaranteeing citizenship and equal rights and protection to former slaves. When they say that electing this individual would be better than electing any Democrat, they have come very close to the admission.

The only question now is when someone in the Republican Party will say out loud just about the only thing they haven’t admitted to: that we’d be better off without democracy if it comes to that. And following their current trajectory, that is exactly what it is coming to.

Trump and his supporters do not represent the majority of Americans, and they know it. This leaves Trump with two choices: to expand his base of political support by reaching out to the rest of Americans, or to double down on the vehemence and extremism of his existing base. We know which he has chosen, and which the Republican Party has now also chosen. And what the donors to Trump and the Republican Party have also chosen. And what is the only logical destination of that choice? Their leaving power gracefully, or the slow or sudden termination of democracy. Think it through. It’s not that complicated.

They maybe don’t all yet realize this implication of their strategy, but no doubt some of them do. This card has been held close to the vest, but not all that close. Trump’s threats to those who might hold him accountable have been overt and at times, as in the case of James Comey, concrete. The response of his party has been migrating from grumbling to cheerleading.

Where does this inevitably lead? We will either hear someone prominent in the party break the ice and say democracy is the real problem and needs to go. Or maybe it won’t be said out loud, and we can simply watch as they quietly go ahead and do it.