The former Director of National Intelligence in the Trump administration is warning that some of the conspiracy theories being tossed around by President Donald Trump and his surrogates regarding the upcoming election are undermining faith in the most fundamental tenet of U.S. democracy and could lead to an erosion of the freedoms we hold most dear.

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Coats makes it clear that the democratic experiment which began 231 years ago with the ratification of the Constitution is in danger:

“Our democracy’s enemies, foreign and domestic, want us to concede in advance that our voting systems are faulty or fraudulent; that sinister conspiracies have distorted the political will of the people; that our public discourse has been perverted by the news media and social networks riddled with prejudice, lies and ill will; that judicial institutions, law enforcement and even national security have been twisted, misused and misdirected to create anxiety and conflict, not justice and social peace.”

What can be done? Coats calls for a bipartisan commission to oversee U.S. elections, and his suggestion makes perfect sense, though it remains to be seen if Democrats and Republicans can ever come to a consensus and do so for the sake of the republic:

“Our key goal should be reassurance. We must firmly, unambiguously reassure all Americans that their vote will be counted, that it will matter, that the people’s will expressed through their votes will not be questioned and will be respected and accepted. I propose that Congress creates a new mechanism to help accomplish this purpose. It should create a supremely high-level bipartisan and nonpartisan commission to oversee the election. This commission would not circumvent existing electoral reporting systems or those that tabulate, evaluate or certify the results. But it would monitor those mechanisms and confirm for the public that the laws and regulations governing them have been scrupulously and expeditiously followed — or that violations have been exposed and dealt with — without political prejudice and without regard to political interests of either party.”

Consider what may happen in just 46 days: Voters will go to the polls or cast their ballots via the mail, and suddenly chaos could begin. Trump might declare himself the winner on Election Night and say any uncounted votes are invalid. That would set off a series of actions by both parties that will only complicate matters further. The election could wind up in the Supreme Court the way it did in 2000, and a decision by the high court would make one side happy and cause the other side to explode with anger and calls for retribution. Such a scenario could even lead to a second civil war, which wouldn’t be good for anyone other than our enemies, as Coats concludes in his op-ed:

“If we fail to take every conceivable effort to ensure the integrity of our election, the winners will not be Donald Trump or Joe Biden, Republicans or Democrats. The only winners will be Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Ali Khamenei. No one who supports a healthy democracy could want that.”

Featured Image Via NBC News