The following opinion piece was published in the Deseret News on Sunday, January 17 -- before the voting in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries.

We're in a silly season of American politics, and with the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary upon us, we're about to see if American politics can get any sillier.

As a supporter of our form of democracy in a constitutional republic, I do put my trust in the voters.

But that thought simply prompts remembrance of the line made famous by former Republican President Ronald Reagan: "Trust, but verify."

What must be verified? In my mind, it's nothing short of whether "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." The line, of course, was uttered by our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln — when our country was arguably in its darkest days.

Syndicated columnist Michael Gerson (and former speechwriter for George W. Bush) posed this question on these pages last week: What is the worst-case scenario for the Republican Party? "The worst outcome for the party would be the nomination of Donald Trump."

Although Trump might still defeat the Democratic nominee, whoever she or he is, Gerson wrote that "Trump's nomination would not be the temporary victory of one of the GOP's ideological factions. It would involve the replacement of the humane ideal at the center of the party and its history. If Trump were the nominee, the GOP would cease to be."

I agree. The situation could become that dire.