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The Commission on Presidential Debates promised to tighten the rules for the next two debates "to ensure a more orderly discussion."

Democracy's challenges pushed to new depths by a shambolic debate

Now it's a presidential debate that has created the latest low-point for our dysfunctional democracy — and on several fronts.

Tuesday night's chaotic 90 minutes of hectoring, crosstalk, bombast, browbeating, baseless assertions and buck-passing will be remembered, at a minimum, for effectively extinguishing the already sullied concept of civil political discourse.

It will also be known for President Trump finding yet another venerable democratic institution — somber debate of the top issues by the nation's two would-be leaders — that he was eager to attack. He employed so much off-point heckling and demeaning personal attacks that his exasperated challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, twice labeled Trump a "clown."

And that was all before the sitting American president decided to intensify his unprecedented assault on the integrity of the coming presidential election itself and his unwillingness to promise a peaceful transition, unheard-of rattling of democracy's bedrock before a global audience that included an estimated 29 million American voters.

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New Mexico: How one state's story reflects the long, strange journey toward the election

Usually, the results of a presidential election provide the main drama. Usually, it is not the story of how Americans are going to vote that's packed with twists, conflicts, and a constant litany of first evers and never befores.

Of course, almost nothing about 2020 has been usual. In fact, it may be the most historically significant year leading up to a national election in memory. So the fighting over how to hold a comprehensive, safe and reliable election has often been tough to follow in the shadows of impeachment, pandemic and economic calamity.

There are five weeks to go. But the path traveled so far — by good-government activists, election officials, security watchdogs, political leaders, legions of attorneys and regular citizens — becomes clear through the lens of a single state. We've chosen New Mexico. It's more rural, poor, politically blue and demographically brown than the nation. But its election experience this year nicely reflects the calamity the country's already gone through, even before the fight over the actual count begins.

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President Trump and first lady Melania Trump pay their respects to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Thursday. The looming fight over her replacement threatens further damage to our democracy, writes Troiano.

Court fight warning: Break the doom loop or it will soon break us

Troiano is executive director of Unite America, which promotes an array of electoral reforms and helps finance other advocacy organizations, and political candidates, with a commitment to cross-partisanship. (It is a donor to The Fulcrum.)

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President Trump refused Wednesday to say there would be a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election.

GOP pushback doesn't end suspicions about Trump and a peaceful transition

President Trump's most recent refusal to commit to accepting the results of the election propelled several other prominent Republicans on Thursday to insist there will be a peaceful end to one administration and start of another come January, no matter who wins in November.

"There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792," vowed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who like the others in the party who spoke out still declined to identify Trump's alarming equivocation by name.

Beyond that, one of Trump's most overt threats yet to subvert a bedrock aspect of American democracy, should he lose in November, drew a whole range of responses and raised all manner of so-far unanswerable questions.

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