Donald Trump’s refusal to accept the reality that Joe Biden won last week’s election is not merely an overgrown child’s tantrum. By deliberately seeking to undermine the results, Trump and a wide swath of Republican leaders are laying the groundwork to overturn them—an act that, were we watching it unfold abroad, we’d call a coup d’état. Just consider:

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t acknowledged Biden’s victory.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has promised there will be “a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”
  • Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt says that Trump “may have not have been defeated at all.”
  • Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson says he won’t congratulate Biden because “there’s nothing to congratulate him about.”
  • The White House is reportedly vetting appointees for a second Trump term.
  • Attorney General Bill Barr has issued a memo authorizing federal prosecutors to pursue claims of voter fraud.
  • And Trump’s legal team continues to pursue baseless litigation promoting unfounded conspiracy theories.

   These are not the actions of a president and political party prepared to peacefully hand over power after losing an election. They are the exact opposite: a deliberate strategy seeking to annul the expression of the popular will. It is a dangerous scheme that, at best, will fray confidence in our already fragile democracy. At worst, it will succeed and keep Trump in office against all right and all law.

   This is, of course, exactly what we expected from Trump. But where are Democratic leaders in denouncing this with the righteous fury this moment requires? Why have we not seen Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, their chief lieutenants, and their most prominent allies all gather before the Capitol and, in one voice, expose this plot against America for what it is?

   We can’t just let Trump play out the string. We can’t, as one nameless Republican pleaded, “humor him” while we tell ourselves, “Jan. 20 can’t come soon enough.” The peril is too great. Trump’s attempted coup probably will not succeed, but that is not a good or acceptable reason to ignore it. Even if it fails, Trump can do great damage on his way out.

   Top Democrats must stand up for democracy while there is still time, to show the country and the world that we will not tolerate the GOP’s assault on this great nation and all it stands for. The stakes are too high to delay any longer.