Curator Note: This opinion article by Thomas Friedman summarizes the way many moderate Democrats think these days. Many of us are fiscally conservative and socially liberal — always were, always will be. But above all, we are patriots, believe in the Constitution, the three branches of government, the rule of law and the integrity of the government institutions and norms we have built over the last 250 years or so. To see our country so casually demolished by Trump and the Republican party is horrifying to most of us.
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If we say, as Republicans do, that what Trump did is not an impeachable offense, we are telling ourselves and every future president that — in direct contradiction of what the founders wrote in the Constitution — it is O.K. to enlist a foreign power to tilt the election your way. Can you imagine how much money candidates could raise from Saudi Arabia or China to tilt a future election their way, or how many cyberwarriors they could enlist from Russia or Iran to create fake news, suppress voting or spur outrage?
The integrity of our elections would be shattered, and we would never again have a legitimate president — a president, who, whether or not you liked him or her, was at least seen as legitimately elected. That would be a prescription for permanent political chaos, as no future presidents’ authority would be respected if they were elected on the basis of foreign interference.
But that is what Republicans are courting by blindly defending Trump’s indefensible enlistment of Ukraine’s help to take down Biden and by echoing Trump’s conspiracy theory — originated by Russian agents — that it was Ukraine that hacked the Democratic National Committee’s emails in 2016, not Russia. They also argue that the D.N.C.’s server was shipped off to Ukraine before the F.B.I. could look at it.