This period in U.S. history could go down as the moment when America’s democratic system for electing a president — the most consequential duty of U.S. citizens — was broken, perhaps for good.

True, the U.S. Constitution’s promise and central premise — that the people elect the president — has never been totally fulfilled. America’s aristocratic Founding Fathers didn’t trust the rabble (or slaves or women) to choose the person to fill the nation’s most powerful office. So, the United States ended up with supposedly wise men — the electoral college — who would select the president.

Under President Donald Trump, the cooked-up issue was whether the count in the electoral college actually represented the popular vote in their states. What has come to be termed “The Big Lie” was not just that the election had been “stolen” from Trump, but also included attempts to legitimize various underhanded means of attempting to reverse the true result.