Pitts: Right-wing radicals have stated their aims. We better believe them

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik / Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., arrives as the House Republican Conference meets to elect a new chairman to replace Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who was ousted from the GOP leadership for her criticism of former President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington on May 14, 2021.

It's been five years since I first speculated in this space about the end of American democracy.

In doing so, I felt like a man climbing out on an especially creaky limb. But as hyperpartisanship rose to ever more bizarre extremes, as the misinformation crisis left ever more people babbling angry gobbledygook, as voter suppression resurrected the zombie of Jim Crow and as Donald Trump swore an oath he didn't mean, that limb began to feel like bedrock.

Even so, I struggled with the obvious follow-up question. If America faced an existential threat, what form would it take? I thought: maybe a newly energized secession movement. Or a fascist regime rising from the ruins of a hollowed-out democracy.

Truthfully, it was hard to say.