In perhaps the saddest statement since Jan. 6 on the state of American democracy, Republican lawmakers across the country have been asked to say three simple words: Joe Biden won. But they just can’t bring themselves to do it, even though Biden beat President Donald Trump by more than 7 million popular votes and trounced him in the Electoral College toll. In other words, those GOP lawmakers refuse to recognize the will of the people. Which means they no longer recognize democracy.

An October poll found that nearly a third of Republican respondents said violence may be necessary to put Trump back in power. Which means those Republicans no longer recognize democracy as the only correct way to install leaders and peacefully transfer power. Sales of firearms in America are skyrocketing. Forbes reports that more than 30 million guns were purchased in America in 2020 and 2021, a record-setting trend that suggests some people are preparing for violence.

These are frightening times for anyone paying attention to the trends. The storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6 was the starkest example of a willingness to use violence to achieve what a free election couldn’t. Before insurrectionists attacked from the outside, a few members of Congress inside had forwarded to the White House an elaborate scheme to effectively stage a military-backed coup to keep Trump in power.

The scheme, outlined in a 36-slide PowerPoint presentation, concocted a story of electronically cast votes manipulated by China to tilt the vote toward Biden. The scheme called for nullifying all votes cast electronically. Trump would declare a state of emergency and federalize the National Guard in all 50 states to conduct a new presidential vote. Only paper ballots would be counted, and ballots deemed “counterfeit” would be thrown out. The result, the PowerPoint document states: “Trump wins!!”

But it required Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6 to refuse certification of Biden’s victory. Pence said he wouldn’t cooperate, prompting Trump to tweet during the insurrection: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”

Active-duty members of the U.S. military participated in the Jan. 6 assault. Months later, the commanding general of the Oklahoma National Guard publicly questioned a directive from his commander in chief.

As retired generals have written, there are troubling signs of a split in the U.S. military, with political loyalties eclipsing troops’ oath to honor and protect the Constitution. “Under such a scenario, it is not outlandish to say a military breakdown could lead to civil war,” the generals wrote.

When one side comes this close to abandoning the fundamental pillars upon which this nation is founded, the question becomes more than just theoretical: Can American democracy, or America itself, survive if this radical faction doesn’t come to its senses?

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