Every election has winners and losers. Our ongoing democratic experiment depends on the fact that when candidates fall short, they accept the fact and move on.


Why is that? Because most candidates, especially those for national office, have many supporters. And those supporters, without clear guidance from those they vote for, can become disruptive. We’ve seen it happen in the weeks since Donald Trump lost the presidential election, with a small number of supporters going beyond peaceful protest to threaten and intimidate election officials.


We’ve said it before when it comes to Trump’s behavior, but it must be repeated now: This is unacceptable.


The soon to be ex-president is attempting to construct a "lost cause" narrative, one familiar to those who study the aftermath of the Civil War or Germany after World War I. In each case, those who fought on the losing side were exploited by cynical politicians who reassured them that they didn’t actually lose but were instead sabotaged by nefarious outside forces.


This is a powerfully addictive story. And in each case, those who denied reality ended up doing terrible damage to their home countries. In the United States, southern whites ended up crushing Reconstruction and delaying racial progress by decades. In Germany, sour grapes fueled the birth of a worldwide threat.


We don’t claim that President Trump is operating at the scale of these historical examples. But his wounded ego is fueling outrage among his supporters.


Republicans across the country must step up and say that this kind of narrative not only isn’t true but also is doing damage. Those who administer our elections must be respected and lauded. They managed a remarkable feat last month, overseeing a free and fair election in the middle of a pandemic. They should be praised by all, not scorned.


And those who would pamper the president’s delusions — those like Kansas Attorney General Derek Scmidt — must do better. They are playing a dangerous game with our country and the multitude of interlocking systems that allow it to function. If Trump has shown us anything, it’s that our institutions are more vulnerable than many imagined.


The question is not whether Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20. The question is whether sane, rational, patriotic Americans — Republicans, Democrats and independents alike — will want to actively participate in making this country better.


Who will ask to supervise elections now? Who will volunteer to staff polling places? Why risk it when your actions will be threatened by extremists?


This election season has surely given them pause.