It is obvious our democracy is in a fragile state, and for good reason. For decades both Democrats and Republicans have in one way or another facilitated the movement of vast amounts of wealth to the richest in the land while middle class wages, living standards and job security have all been eroded, and poverty has steadily risen.

The GOP’s recent tax cuts, supported by both Susan Collins and Bruce Poliquin, are just the latest and most brazen move in this direction. Meantime tens of millions in this, the richest country in the world, live in slum housing or no housing at all, and go hungry every day.

Our democracy has in many ways failed major sections of the population, resulting in a backlash against politics as usual. Donald Trump rode this backlash into the White House. Ever since, he has gone out of his way to continue to weaken the institutions of our democracy with repeated assaults on the mainstream media and the rule of law, and through his evident contempt for facts and the truth.

The core achievement of democracies is to pass power from one party or set of rulers to another, and from one generation to another, without bloodshed. We have only to look around the world to see how critical this is.

But for this to happen there has to be widespread belief in, or at least acceptance of, the core institutions of the state, combined with an independent judicial system and a free press willing and able to hold leaders to account. These are under vigorous attack right now, with the assault being led by the President himself.

From the opening shots of his campaign, Donald Trump fomented hysteria against immigrants and Muslims, pandered to racists, explicitly encouraged violence at his rallies, encouraged the police to be more forceful with suspects, insulted the judicial system, denigrated the media, and in general encouraged a climate of fear and intimidation. He is doing immeasurable harm to an already weakened system.

In the face of this onslaught, the one organization with the capacity and responsibility to halt this offensive, the Republican Party, has remained almost totally supine and much of the time has been his enabler.

These are not normal times in which we are living. If President Trump and his enablers are not brought to the democratic heel, we are likely to see much graver assaults on our democracy. We tend to think we are immune to the kind of social disintegration that has destroyed the fabric and cohesion of other societies, but we only have to take a cursory look at history to see how fragile democracies can be; we are witnessing a slow-moving train wreck.

It is incumbent on all of us to demand that Congress and our other institutions rein in the President before he does any more damage.

Nigel Calder