Michael Goodwin: Hillary Clinton keeps finding ways to denigrate democracy

And so our fiery national nightmare is over. For now.

But only a Pollyanna would think peace is about to break out across the bloody political and cultural battlefields. We are a long way from fixing what was shattered and retrieving what has been lost.

There were many causes and events on the long road that brought us to this low place, but a telling moment took place almost exactly two years ago. It was the final debate of the presidential campaign, held on Oct. 19, 2016.

Here is how The New York Times began its slanted coverage: “In a remarkable statement that seemed to cast doubt on American democracy, Donald J. Trump said Wednesday that he might not accept the results of next month’s election if he felt it was rigged against him — a stand that Hillary Clinton blasted as ‘horrifying.’ ”

After noting that no modern president refused to accept election results, the paper quoted Clinton attacking Trump.

“Let’s be clear about what he is saying and what that means,” she said. “He is denigrating — he is talking down our democracy. And I am appalled that someone who is the nominee of one of our two major parties would take that position.”

She added, “That is not the way our democracy works.”

Fast forward to now, and it is the height of irony — and hypocrisy — that Clinton and her supporters, including the Times, still refuse to accept the election’s outcome. It started with her flimsy claims of Russian collusion and continues uninterrupted, with the character assassination campaign against Brett Kavanaugh the latest example.

Thank God, the assassins were unsuccessful in preventing a superbly qualified jurist and widely respected man from joining the Supreme Court. But they did lasting damage to Kavanaugh’s reputation, his family, the court, the Senate and the entire country.

Willing to destroy any part of government they cannot corrupt with partisanship, members of the self-declared resistance are tearing America apart because the election didn’t go their way. They have unleashed a whirlwind of fanatical hate, with violence now routinely threatened and sometimes carried out.

Throw in the crooked James Comey’s drum-beating against Kavanaugh and the return of Obama to the campaign trail, and it’s clear the seamy efforts of the former administration are still going strong.

There are no random events. It is a straight line from the unprecedented plot by President Barack Obama’s administration to infiltrate and wiretap the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016 to the scurrilous accusations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh.

The probe by special counsel Robert Mueller has turned up nothing of significance against the president, yet it plods onward, searching for anything that would justify its existence.

In that context, it is beyond mildly interesting that a former FBI agent reportedly tried to pressure a friend of Christine Blasey Ford into changing her sworn statement to the Senate so it would support Ford’s charges against Kavanaugh. And one of Ford’s lawyers happens to be the lawyer for the fired former deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe.

Throw in the crooked James Comey’s drum-beating against Kavanaugh and the return of Obama to the campaign trail, and it’s clear the seamy efforts of the former administration are still going strong.

As the Kavanaugh catastrophe demonstrates, our nation is paying a heavy price for the unpatriotic attempts to abuse government power to try to pick a president, then undo the election. In a dangerous world where America has real enemies, efforts to undermine Trump’s legitimacy often align with the interests of foreign powers. John Kerry’s traitorous advice to Iran to wait for the next president are a prime example.

To be clear, what we just witnessed, and what we have seen for two years, is not a case of mere political differences, which the Founders recognized as inevitable and even desirable.

Instead, we face something more akin to the combustible climate historian Christopher Clark described as the origins of World War I. In his book, “The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914,” Clark illustrates how none of the great powers wanted war, but all felt free to escalate the build-up in the certainty that the other side would back down.

Something similar is happening here, and our nation could be sleepwalking into a second civil war. Even though justice and fairness prevailed this time, the stained confirmation process must serve as a wake-up alarm.

It is a recognition of the danger we face that, amidst the threats from Democrats to impeach Kavanaugh, we also hear calls for unity and healing. I’m all for them — as long as they’re not a fig leaf wrapped around gross wrongdoing.

As the Kavanaugh catastrophe demonstrates, our nation is paying a heavy price for the unpatriotic attempts to abuse government power to try to pick a president, then undo the election.

For one thing, the leak of the confidential letter Ford wrote to Sen. Dianne Feinstein must be treated as a crime. As several senators noted, the leak falsely weaponized a charge about a 36-year-old event, without having any corroborating evidence. Ford wanted to remain private, but the leaker wanted to create a public spectacle that pitted her and Kavanaugh against each other like two caged beasts.

The leaker succeeded and provoked other accusers to make charges without evidence, leading to a cascade of smoke but no fire. Among the casualties was the presumption of innocence, a bedrock of our legal system and Western civilization itself. Ford and Kavanaugh both say their families received death threats.

For another thing, the role of Ford’s lawyers must be investigated. One was hired at the recommendation of Feinstein’s office, and another represents McCabe — suggesting this was a political operation from the start.

Moreover, the failure of those lawyers to turn over key documents to the Senate reeks of bad faith and perhaps something far more sinister.

Less surprising was that the fiasco revealed how the liberal media keep behaving like battering rams against Trump. The wild stories about Kavanaugh in high school and college, coming from NBC, The New Yorker and others aimed to paint him as too toxic for confirmation. Shamefully, Ivy League law schools piled on.

Their failure to stop him is cause for relief, but nothing more. The media and academia embarrassed themselves again, but show no signs of ending their blatant bias.

The Times, of course, is the leader of the wolf pack, and it’s worth revisiting the end of its 2016 debate story.

After saying Trump “sputtered” in one exchange, it wrote that the evening was “a last-ditch attempt by a fading candidate, Mr. Trump, to save himself.”

Clinton, on the other hand, was said to be “reaching for not just a win but a mandate,” and the article concluded with obvious support for her certain victory.

“I would like to say to everyone watching tonight that I’m reaching out to all Americans, Democrats, Republicans and independents,” she said, “because we need everybody to help make our country what it should be.”

Two years later, she bears a huge responsibility for the disaster before us. If she really wants to help, Clinton should publicly admit that Trump won the election fair and square.