By Tom Ehrich

In 1964, I was too young to vote, but old enough to be potential cannon fodder for the nation’s latest war. The right wing’s insanity touched me at a visceral level. So did the federal government’s efforts to lay a foundation of justice and fairness for all citizens, not just the white ones.

Sixteen years later, Election Day found my wife and myself driving to the hospital for the birth of our second son. We stopped at our polling place and cast our ballots against the latest iteration of that same right wing. We got a wonderful son, the nation got Ronald Reagan and eight years of economic disaster and galloping injustice.

Since 1980, the right wing has pledged itself to bring down the federal government and to serve the interests of the rich. They have played the “race card,” and now the “immigrant card” and “homosexual card” to convince non-rich whites to go along with their schemes.

They hounded Bill Clinton throughout his presidency, ignored the egregious faults of George Bush, and then unleashed their conspiracy-theory and bigotry machines against the nation’s first black president. As a result of this relentless assault on democracy, Congress has basically ceased to function, the Supreme Court is under-staffed, and their champion for president is openly calling for the assassination, harassment and impeachment of the Democratic candidate if she wins.

The American experiment in democracy is at risk. Serious risk. Even if we dodge the bullet of Donald Trump, the ground is laid to paralyze the nation and to funnel even more wealth to the donor class. The fundamental rights that enable this nation to work – free speech, free assembly, free voting, free belief, tolerance of diversity, respect for the other’s humanity – are under attack by people pretending to be patriots and moral stalwarts.

No less under assault are the foundations of society: respect for the truth, respect for objective information, respect for science and knowledge.

This is happening because nihilists want power, and they will stop at nothing to attain it. And because the mega-haves are insane in their greed for more. Nihilism and greed are a deadly combination.

Next week’s election is the most important I have witnessed as an American citizen. We must start by rejecting nihilism and greed, and then continue to push back against the anti-democratic forces out to undermine our homeland.