President Joe Biden walks offstage with first lady Jill Biden at the conclusion of the presidential debate in Atlanta (OSV News photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters).

Ever since it became eminently clear that Donald Trump had MAGA-tized the Republican party and would become its presidential nominee in 2024, the image of a broad slab of highly polished black marble has been flashing through my mind. Trump’s name is carved into its surface on the upper left. Below in gilded letters appear the names of Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Mark Meadows, Rudolph Giuliani, John Eastman—and all the other accomplices who either rallied to prevent the peaceful transfer of power in 2020 or officially excused it.

Week by week, month by month, I see more names added to this wall: losers in the GOP primaries like Tim Scott, Ron DeSantis, Chris Christie; people who worked with Trump and found him unfit for the presidency but now declare they will vote for him, like William A. Barr; sycophantic contenders to be Trump’s vice president, like J. D. Vance, Marco Rubio, Elise Stefanik. Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch are there with Fox News propagandists like Sean Hannity as well as the Wall Street Journal editorial writers who took a few hard shots at Trump when they feared he might be a loser but have now reverted to occasionally tapping his knuckles at the bottom of the editorial column while trumpeting Biden’s shortcomings at the top.

Then there are the names of corporate donors, many of whom had promised to abstain from supporting Trump after January 6. Of course, Steve Bannon’s name appears there, along with the names of Michael Anton and other high-toned defenders of Western Civilization at the Claremont Institute. One whole column lists the policy wonks at the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, who are charting the MAGA Gleichschaltung of the federal government. Ah, here are Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas and maybe a couple of others. I could go on.

At the top of this black marble wall, large glowing letters read: “GRAVEDIGGERS OF DEMOCRACY.”

At the top of this black marble wall, large glowing letters read: “GRAVEDIGGERS OF DEMOCRACY.”

We can and should debate which other names belong on this dishonor roll. Religious leaders whose legitimate concerns about church and state keep them from even mentioning the stakes for democracy? Business chieftains and wealthy Americans who think that preserving tax cuts, regulatory advantages, and access to power is worth the risk of permanently rewiring the system of checks and balances? People rubbed raw by liberal dogmatism and tempted to strike back even at the cost of abetting dogmatism of a more pernicious and lasting sort? There is plenty of room on the wall. There is still plenty of time to sign up or stay off.

And there is a new, unexpected possibility: the name of someone I’ve long respected, someone I’ve voted for, someone members of my family have worked for. On the day I began writing this, he sent out a fundraising appeal and opined on a television show. His messages were more larded with aggrieved attacks on “pundits” and “elites” than on the demagogue he is pledged to defeat. Will Joseph R. Biden be the final name among the Gravediggers of Democracy?

Peter Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal and religion writer for the New York Times, is a University Professor Emeritus at Fordham University and author of A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America.

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