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The progress of civilization can be tracked through numerous historic movements.

In the 15th century, for example, European nations expanded their horizons during the Age of Discovery — a time of overseas exploration led by figures such as Ferdinand Magellan, Christopher Columbus and Vasco Núñez de Balboa.

During the 18th century came the Age of Enlightenment when reason set a new course of exploration, ushering in a host of advancements in science, literature and political thought. The leaders were individuals such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith and Immanuel Kant, people who were influenced by others such as René Descartes and John Locke. The principles that led to the founding of this country can be attributed to the big thinkers of this time.

Now we appear to have entered a new period. Call it the Age of Emotion.

As with Enlightenment period, this is a populist movement, one accessible to a mass audience. But its byproducts can hardly be considered to advance mankind. In fact, intellectual thought appears to be antithetical to the cause of an emotional age.

In this movement, emotion is everything. It is self-evident, self-validating and, too often, self-generating.

Descartes put forward the philosophical proposition known as

“Cogito ergo sum” — “I think, therefore I am.” Under this age, the proposition is simple, “If I feel, therefore I am — and I am right.”

We have seen this surface in entertainment and talk radio. But it has manifested itself now in a major political figure: Donald Trump. The prince of superlatives has offered many examples of this thinking, from his longtime assertions that President Barack Obama is a noncitizen to his threats to jail his political opponent — based more on anger than evidence — to his promise during the GOP convention that “the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon — and I mean very soon — come to an end.” His statements come in two flavors: over the top or below the belt.

There’s probably no better example of this than Trump’s claim this past week that the election may be “rigged” and his refusal to say whether he would accept the outcome of the election — unless he wins.

Here’s the problem. People believe him. Or at least his followers do. According to Public Policy Polling, 65 percent of Trump supporters think Obama is a Muslim. And 59 percent think Obama was not born in the United States.

The myth of voter fraud has been debunked repeatedly. In a comprehensive examination of votes between 2000 and 2014, the Washington Post found only 31 credible instances of impersonation fraud out of 1 billion ballots cast across the nation. The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law concluded in one report that the incident rate for voter impersonation fraud is so small that it is more likely that an American “will be struck by lightning” than be victim of it.

Nonetheless, Trump on Wednesday claimed that there are “millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn’t be registered to vote.”

And his claims are taking its toll on the public’s trust of the election process. According to a Politico poll, four out of 10 voters say November’s election could be “stolen” from Trump due to widespread voter fraud.

But we should not be surprised. Facts are optional in an emotional age — where the saying goes that if it sounds too good to be true, it must be true.

Thankfully, there’s a resistance movement at work. But its leaders are not getting enough credit.

Certainly, there’s no shortage of Democrats, liberal journalists and political pundits who are fighting the good fight against Trump’s wild claims. But the true champions of this resistance belong to those on the right who have the most to lose.

Wrote one about the Trump campaign, “The suspension of disbelief has become so ubiquitous that we hardly notice anymore. We are operating in an alternate universe where the geometry is non-Euclidean, facts don’t matter, history and logic have disappeared.”

This was not Hillary Clinton’s campaign Chairman John Podesta. It was Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, one of the most conservative opinion writers in syndication. And he’s not alone.

Here’s what George Will said following the release of the now-famous “Hollywood Access” tape: “(Trump’s) sexual loutishness is a sufficient reason for defeating him, but it is far down a long list of sufficient reasons. But if it — rather than, say, his enthusiasm for torture even ‘if it doesn’t work,’ or his ignorance of the nuclear triad — is required to prompt some Republicans to have second thoughts about him, so be it.”

Wrote Jennifer Rubin, who writes the conservative “Right Turn” blog for the Washington Post, “Donald Trump is headed for a colossal loss, but his defenders seem oblivious to the demise of their own credibility, to the extent they still have any. It’s remarkable that people are making such horrifically awful arguments in his defense.”

These individuals recognize that far more is at stake than just who occupies the Oval Office. What hangs in the balance are things such as credibility, character and something Americans used to value — the truth.

Credit belongs to these individuals as well as a handful of Republican leaders – including all former GOP presidents — who have had the courage to reject Trump and his scorched-earth tactics even if it leaves them without a candidate in this election. Far better to join the resistance and fight for a principle then fight for a person and risk losing everything.

That leads to one final thought. Many candidates and supporters are appealing for people to “just get out and vote.” But it’s not enough to just show up at the polls, especially given the length and complexity of this ballot. Do your homework first.

If not, you’re more likely to succumb to the tactics of those who would like nothing better than for you to cast your vote on what you feel is true rather than what is true.

Join the resistance. Take time to learn about each candidate and ballot measure. The irony is you’ll feel better in the end.

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