There was a moment in the second presidential debate that was so uncharted in American political history that it bears repeating: Donald Trump threatened to sic a special prosecutor on Hillary Clinton and jail her if he wins.
That chilling moment stood out even in one of the most dizzying weeks of a dizzying campaign, with Trump caught on tape bragging about groping women, numerous women coming forward to confirm he groped them, and him denying that these particular women were attractive enough for him to have groped. He also managed to insinuate that he didn't find Clinton all that attractive either, and he openly wondered why women weren't making similar sexual misconduct allegations about President Obama.
Former Republican Attorney General Michael Mukasey called Trump's debate barb that Clinton would be in jail if he were president a "watershed moment." The New York Times wrote this week how Trump's mere suggestion of locking up his political opponents reminded political scientists, not of American democracy, but of "troubled democracies abroad" in Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
Historians who spoke with TPM about the way in which this election has defied the norms of presidential politics cited it as one of the starkest ways in which 2016 has– perhaps irreversibly– redefined our country's democratic system, but not the only one.
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