I didn't sleep particularly well last night, in the way that you don't after experiencing something particularly traumatic.
The trauma was served up by Donald Trump, who began the debate by pulling a Maury Povich stunt to distract from his recently revealed reprehensible treatment of women. He "apologized," the way that you apologize for being abusive by saying ISIS is worse and then calling everyone who notices a hypocrite. He "apologized," in the way that you apologize by saying your bragging about molesting women was just you lying to impress people you just met.
Amoral as his belligerent unrepentance was, that wasn't what left me sleepless.
What left me sleepless was hearing Trump, in front of a whole nation, promising to use the power of the Presidency and the legal system to harass and imprison a political opponent.
This goes beyond the chanting crowds of the aggrieved at the Republican National Convention. He has now publicly stated that he will appoint a special prosecutor for the sole purpose of finding a reason to incarcerate his opponent.
This is a new thing for America. As the sun rose today, I read through the transcripts of another series of debates from a difficult time, the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas as the two men vied for an Illinois senate seat. With the nation just two years from a bloody civil war, neither Lincoln nor Douglas made threats against the person of the other.
Donald Trump has crossed that line.
This is not America, or at least, not representative of any vision of America that any freedom-loving soul desires to see come to pass. It is utterly antithetical to the vision of liberty laid out by our Founding Fathers in our Constitution. What Trump said is monstrous. It is a definitive statement of the intent towards tyranny, and a fundamental threat to what makes America great and noble and good.
And in saying this publicly, for the first time in my nearly 50 years of life as a citizen of the United States of America, I'm aware that there's a potential risk to my person in my political opinions and political speech.
Because Trump has also said, repeatedly during this dark campaign, that he will use the legal system to silence the media when the media is "unfair" to him.
In this internet age, we are all the mainstream media. Right here, as you read this, I am the free press, as are you when you share your opinions on your blog or through social media.
If Donald Trump does something amoral or colossally stupid, and you post or tweet against it, and it goes viral? Read by thousands? Now, if he finds your words "unfair," that means nothing. You have your rights under the Constitution, and laws that protect your speech. But there is a chance--fading, but not zero--that Trump might have all of the power of an imperial presidency.
All that power, coupled with the stated intent to imprison opponents and silence free speech?
That cannot happen. His personal threats against her are a threat to all of our liberty, in a real and material sense.
So I felt awake last night, very much so. And as much as I miss the sleep, it's an important time for us to be awake.