It is heartbreaking to see someone you love in a toxic relationship: watching them be continually torn down and berated, treated with complete disregard, humiliated publicly over and over again — and knowing that despite how much damage has been inflicted, they will likely stay with their abuser, to their own detriment.

There is a unique kind of helplessness when a human being is so blinded by their past hopes about what the other person would become, that they can’t see what they actually are presently; when they are so consumed with the story they’ve told themselves about the heart of their partner, that no amount of evidence to the contrary will be enough to convince them otherwise.

They will be lied to and gaslit and injured — and still they will fiercely defend the object of their misplaced affections; perhaps because they do not see their own worth and imagine they will not find better, or because fear has paralyzed them into inaction, or because living this way for so long has left them unable to see another possibility.

When they are confronted by the efforts of well-meaning people, they will deny and rationalize and even lash out at the very suggestion that they are being manipulated, rather than face the possibility that they have been fooled by someone they misjudged and trusted. It is exhausting to try and help them extricate themselves from their own hearts, to show them how unhealthy this place is, to wake them up to their greater value.

Nearly 40 percent of this nation is in an abusive relationship with this President and they are the only ones who cannot see it.

He has complete contempt for them and yet they passionately defend him. They cut ties with those who attempt to reach them with the evidence of his betrayal. Though they are being daily devalued and damaged, they cannot see it through the intoxicating romantic haze of their Fox News, Evangelical, Great America back stories. They see those of us who oppose him as the enemy, when the truth is we care far more about them than he ever will — which is why we have to show up in November and help them see what they cannot right now.

This election is the chance for the sixty percent of us to rescue these people from this bitter codependence; to vote them into a safer and more stable place; to show them what it could be like if they were led by someone who actually cares for their well being, who actually works to strengthen the bonds between them and the people around them, who will not subject them to a continual toxic flood of intimidation in order to keep them close and retain their affections.

Whenever someone finds their way out of an abusive relationship, you watch them blossom: you see them embrace the wide-open life that has always been waiting for them, and they get to see themselves and the world with new eyes. Like a mighty Phoenix rising from the suffocating ashes of something that was far less than they deserved, their spirits are reborn — and they wonder how they ever let themselves be treated as anything less than beautiful. They find real freedom.

I so want these people around me to experience this, for them and for the America that I share with them. We all deserve far better than the oppressive, violent, fractured place we now live in, and until they see that we’re stuck here.

The best of who we could be as a nation is not possible while they are tethered to something so destructive and injurious, and the greatest gift we can give them is to save them from themselves.

That is what’s at stake in this election: everything.

John Pavlovitz

The original version of this Op Ed was published on

John Pavlovitz launched an online ministry to help connect people who want community, encouragement, and to grow spiritually. Individuals who want to support his work can sponsor his mission on Patreon, and help the very real pastoral missionary expand its impact in the world.