President Donald Trump is embroiled in an ever-expanding scandal after a whistleblower released the information about his dealings with the president of Ukraine. Between the White House’s redacted transcript summary, texts, testimonies, and the words of Trump associates, there seems to be little question about a quid pro quo for continued military aid.

It is not surprising, but it is deeply disturbing that many of his GOP allies continue to circle the wagons. Everything is about defending the party leader at any cost.

However, it has now reached especially dangerous proportions. If Republicans do not stand up and honor the Constitution and hold Trump accountable, I am afraid that it could eventually lead to greater chaos and even violence in 2020.

In response to the investigation, Trump has already insinuated that the people who clued in the whistleblower should be executed. He called U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff a traitor, the inquiry a coup, the Democrats scum, and has made reference to the impeachment causing a Civil War-like rift. This is not just hyperbolic language. This is the language of authoritarians and tyrants who refuse to abide by the guidelines and procedures of a constitutional republic.

If the GOP does not hold Trump accountable for his current crimes, what will happen in 2020 if the Democratic candidate wins and Trump says that it was due to voter fraud? This scenario is not only possible, but likely. Even after winning the Electoral College in 2016, Trump falsely accused millions of undocumented immigrants of voting to give Clinton the popular vote victory. His former lawyer, Michael Cohen, now in prison, warned that Trump will not accept the results in 2020 if he loses. This should be a concern to all Americans.

What happens in the situation where Trump refuses to concede? Aside from a few notable cases in our history, most notably the election of Lincoln, we have had peaceful transitions of power. Trump puts this all at risk. What does the nation do in this type of situation? What will happen to the people that Trump frames as scapegoats? How can this tension be resolved in a peaceful and civil manner? We are playing with fire by allowing a man like Trump to stay in power. If he is allowed to get away with impeachable offenses, what will he try to do next year to stay in power? Just like tyrants in other countries, it could be a choice of either staying in power or going to prison — special prosecutor Robert Mueller did say Trump could be indicted after leaving office, after all.

Several prominent leaders have recently pointed out that many Republicans behind closed doors know that Trump is corrupt and unfit for office. However, they still think they can use him to get what they want, and they are afraid of the consequences of speaking out. Perhaps the worst form of this cowardice and opportunism is seen in the once critic but now arch defender of Trump, our U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham. It is also seen in our former Gov. Nikki Haley, who is giving cover to Trump, and in U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, who still refuses to hold the president accountable.

I truly hope our better angels prevail. I hope that people have enough community amongst themselves that we can overcome this trying time in our nation and choose a peaceful path. I hope we can look to the path of Jesus, choosing to become peacemakers while knowing that peace will only come if we also hunger and thirst for justice. If we look at world history, there are many precedents that have similarities to our current situation that should give us pause. If we want to have a stable country, a peaceful country, it starts by holding the top leader accountable.

If we fail to do this and all hell breaks loose, the blame will be almost completely at the feet of the elected leaders who knew in their heart of hearts this was dangerous and wrong, but decided to stay along for the ride. We have accomplished too much as a nation and overcome too many struggles to allow someone as blatantly corrupt and authoritarian as Trump to destroy our republic. If our congressional officials want to show their love for their country, it starts by respecting its ideals and removing Trump from office before it is too late. The risks of what could happen post-election in 2020 are too great.

Will McCorkle is a S.C. educator and immigration advocate.

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