Do Republicans who refuse to “unify” behind Trump risk forfeiting the White House? That’s doubtful, since polls consistently show Trump losing to Hillary Clinton. But even if true, what shall it profit the Republican Party to win an election, and lose its republican soul?

Many have already criticized Trump as insufficiently Republican. After all, before his recent rebranding, Trump supported the Democratic Party (“I probably identify more as a Democrat”), Hillary Clinton (“I know Hillary and I think she’d make a great president”), Bill Clinton (“great president”), liberal social policies (“I’m quite liberal and getting much more liberal on healthcare and other things”), and pro-choice abortion policies (“Look, I’m very pro-choice”).

But Trumpism is not only antithetical to the Republican Party; it is antithetical to America’s republican institutions. Trump is the anti-republican candidate. And in the long term, undermining the nation’s “republicanism” is more threatening than the outcome of any single election. Republicans, therefore, should unify behind the principle that there is no place in the Republican Party for anti-republican rhetoric.

Consider these seven principles of American republicanism.

Rule of law. “The true idea of a republic,” John Adams wrote in 1776, is “an empire of laws, and not of men.” Contrast that with this Trumpian manifesto: “If I say do it, they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.” No, it isn’t. That’s what our Constitution was designed to restrain. Or as Michael Gerson puts it, “Trump is the guy your Founding Fathers warned you about.” When a politician like Trump asks voters to pledge allegiance to him, we should all renew our allegiance to the Flag and “the Republic for which it stands.”

Individual Liberty. Patrick Henry defied government tyranny, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Trump, by comparison, praises government power. He retweets Mussolini (“very good quote”), trivializes Putin’s alleged conspiracy to kill Russian journalists (“our country does plenty of killing also”), and describes the Chinese Communist massacre of pro-democracy students in Tiananmen Square as “the power of strength.”

Not surprisingly, Trump garners flattery from Putin (who calls Trump “really brilliant and talented”) and stump support from David Duke, former grand wizard of the Klu Klux Kan (“voting against Donald Trump . . . is really treason to your heritage”). Even less inflammatory admirers breezily speak of Trump’s “blitzkrieg” and blithely joke about him as a “tameable Hitler.”

Supporters tout Trump as a leader who’ll face America’s threats. But vain flirtations with authoritarianism are dangerous signs of personal weakness, not strength.

Freedom of speech. Americans disagree, often. But we also agree to disagree. Not Trump. He sues, often. Far from the tough guy he plays on “reality” television, Trump routinely hides behind lawyers and threatens frivolous lawsuits to silence critics. Among the scores of lawsuits, Trump sued his ex-wife for publishing a novel that, as one writer put it, “resembled their marriage.” ( For more examples, see here, here, and here. Or just read this summary.

Trump sues when he is made to feel small, insufficiently wealthy, threatened or mocked. He sues for sport, he sues to regain a sense of control, and he sues to make a point. He sues as a means of saying ‘you’re fired’ to those he does not employ. But he sues, most of all, to make headlines and to reinforce the notion that he is powerful.

What would Trump do with the keys to the world’s largest law office, otherwise known as the U.S. Department of Justice? For starters, Trump says he would “open up” libel laws to sue news outlets that write “horrible and false articles” about him. In his own words, “we’re going to have people sue you like you never got sued before.” Trumpism promotes lawsuits as a growth industry and treats free speech as an entitlement for those who can afford to defend themselves. Trump critics, beware!

Freedom of religion. Trump promises evangelicals he’ll “protect Christianity.” And to prove his bona fides, Trump quoted “Two Corinthians” at Liberty University and praised the Bible as even better than his best seller The Art of the Deal. ( But unless you’re a religious demographic that Trump is courting, watch out. Trump has stereotyped Jews (“I’m a negotiator like you folks”), picked a fight over Pope Francis’ comments on immigration (“disgraceful”), belittled Mitt Romney’s faith (“people just don’t get the Mormon thing”), and trumpeted his Presbyterianism (“Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness”) over Ben Carson’s Seventh-Day Adventism (“I just don’t know about [that]”).

And no one needs reminding that Trump demagogues the threat of Islamic terrorism by threatening to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. until the government can “figure out what is going on.” Trump even relishes in a scurrilous Internet rumor about executing terrorists with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood. (For a fictional comparison, imagine an Iranian president romanticizing the execution of American CIA agents by crucifixion.)

On principle, no right is more unalienable—and worth fighting for—than the free exercise of religion. And of necessity, our religious liberty in a democracy depends on a collective willingness to defend the rights of all faiths. “We must all hang together,” Benjamin Franklin said in declaring independence, “or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” In a time of anxiety over Islamic terrorism, it’s worth remembering our Founding Fathers’ affirmation that the government of the United States “has in itself no character or enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility of Muslims.”

Freedom from corruption. To woo voters frustrated with politics-as-usual, Trump markets himself as a too-rich-to-buy-billionaire who can fix our politics because he has experience buying politicians: “When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them, and they are there for me.” Electing Trump to fix corruption would be like hiring a bank robber to provide security. The problem is not lack of knowledge, but lapse of character. And the solution is not politicians with insider information, but statesmen with indisputable integrity.

Public Service. Trumpism transforms JFK’s noble sentiment of asking what we can do for our country into advertising what Trump can get for our country: “My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy. . . . But now I want to be greedy for the United States.” () Trump beguiles us to believe that his greed is our gain. That would be a tragic turn for the most generous nation on earth, which after WWII rebuilt its worst enemies. Trump would remake America into his own image. Not America as respected world leader, but America as world-class taker. Our enemies spread lies about America’s “imperialist” ambitions. Trump, it seems, would embrace them.

Public Civility. Where to start? Vulgar insults, misogynistic attacks, bullying threats. And that’s just a Twitter account. (An expert on Internet safety describes Trump’s online targeting as textbook examples of “mean-girl cyberbullying.” Never in modern times has American political discourse been so debased and degraded. Trump has an uncanny and cunning skill for dragging others down to his level.

Responsible public figures display a steady calm and confidence when interrupted by protestors, even the most disruptive ones. Trump, with bodyguards nearby, revels in inflammatory tough talk. Consider rallies in Birmingham (“maybe he should have been roughed up”), in Iowa (“knock the —- out of ‘em, would you? . . . I promise you, I will pay the legal fees”), and in Las Vegas (“I’d like to punch him in the face”).

A Trump fan in North Carolina took Trump’s goading to heart, stealthily approached a protestor being escorted by Sheriff’s deputies, and slammed his elbow into the protestor’s eye socket. He was greeted with applause, and later told a reporter, “The next time we see him [the protestor], we might have to kill him.” ()

Trump cannot escape blame for the violence incited at his rallies. And neither can those who support Trump’s candidacy and lend credibility to Trump’s boast that he can get away with murder: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?”

In the nation’s darkest hour of civil war, Abraham Lincoln appealed to the “better angels of our nature.” Trump, by contrast, incites the base anger of our instinct.

Just Rhetoric? Apologists tell us not to take Trump too seriously because there are “two different Donald Trumps.” There’s the “stage” version and the behind-the-scenes “cerebral” version. Unlike his tell-like-it-is image, Trump is, in reality, just a salesman: “I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts.” (Ask the indebted “graduates” of Trump University if “hyperbole” never hurts.)

Failing to take Trumpism seriously now only repeats the mistakes that led to its rise. Anti-republicanism, even if just rhetoric, is a dangerous gamble in a democracy whose bulwark against tyranny is the virtue of its institutions. Alexander Pope’s classic insight is a warning against taking lightly any degradation of our American republicanism:

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
As to be hated needs but be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

Trumpism will eventually go bankrupt, leaving as debtors all who once lent it their credit. Those who respect the party of Lincoln and Reagan can hope and pray that the GOP will be among the allies of republicanism that ultimately prevail against this newest threat.