elite (noun): A select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of a group or society

That is how the Oxford Dictionary defines the term.

With eight days left before the election, it is time for Americans to come to grips with three critical questions regarding Hillary Clinton and her political machine:

1.) Was Hillary Clinton careless about protecting and preserving secrets that were vital to the national interests of the United States?

2.) Did Bill and Hillary Clinton use their access to the U.S. government — including Hillary’s position as secretary of state and a likely future candidate for president of the United States — to make money for themselves? In other words, did people pay them money in the belief that by doing so, they would obtain better treatment from the United States government?

3.) Is Hillary Clinton a patriot — that is, can she be trusted to look out for the interests of the United States in all circumstances, even when doing so may force her to take actions that could hurt the financial interests of herself or her donors?

It goes without saying that if Hillary Clinton cannot be trusted with our national secrets, used her government positions for personal gain, or puts her personal interests ahead of the national interest, she should not be elected president. In a commercial republic like ours, the one unforgivable sin of a politician is putting money ahead of national honor. If the people no longer believe that their government is run honestly — if they conclude that their leaders are merely crooks with little flags on their lapels — then the whole system is at risk. We ask the people to put up with a lot from their leadership. They have to pay taxes they don’t want to pay, they have to obey laws that they don’t like, and they may have to fight in wars that they oppose. If the people come to believe that the whole system is a scam — that the folks at the top don’t really believe in the very system they’re supposed to uphold — then this country will quickly become ungovernable.

All voters have to decide for themselves how they feel about Hillary Clinton. But no group has to take these questions more seriously than the elites of our society — the wealthy and highly educated people who run our media, staff our government, and manage our largest financial and commercial institutions. There’s been a lot of complaints about the elites this year — and with good reason. For the most part, the policies they have supported in this century have been extraordinarily good for them — and not so good for most Americans. That fact explains why so many Americans this year ignored their wishes, and supported outsider candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

But the Hillary issue goes far beyond this election. It goes to the character of the type of people who govern the United States, who run its largest businesses and manage its biggest media outlets. Do they really care about the ideals of our country or not? If they do, then they must understand that they cannot turn the White House over to a collection of petty grifters who care more about lining their own pockets than watching out for the nation’s interests. And they must understand that they have a duty — a solemn and almost sacred duty — to answer the three questions posed above. And I don’t mean answering them in a lawyerly, he-said, she-said fashion. I mean that they have to study the facts as best they can, and look into their own hearts, and make an honest decision about whether the Clintons deserve to return to the White House. In America, the government belongs to all of us — and all of us, especially the richest and most powerful, have a responsibility to do the right thing.

Some will try to duck that responsibility by complaining about Donald Trump. They will claim that he’s a dangerous demagogue of the kind the Founders warned against. However, the Founders created a whole system to block demagogues from wielding too much power. They created a Senate, a Supreme Court, and lots of different state governments to push back against a demagogue. They created a free press so that the opponents of a demagogue could make their voices heard. If Donald Trump becomes president, he will be subject to all of those constraints. Yet what about a check on a corrupt leadership class? Our Founders didn’t create that — because they were smart enough to realize that no such check is possible. If the richest and most powerful members of our society no longer care about the ideals of this society, then the dream of the Founders has already been lost.

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I have no doubt that some members of the elite class are certain that Hillary Clinton is an innocent patriot who has long been misunderstood by her enemies. If that’s what they believe, they should say so, and let history judge them accordingly. But if you don’t believe that Hillary is honest — if you don’t believe that she can be trusted to do the right thing — then you have a moral obligation to speak out now, before any more damage is done.

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Forty-two years ago, another group of elites faced a similar dilemma. Consider the challenge that faced Establishment Republicans in 1974. For over 20 years, Richard Nixon had been one of the leaders — and often the leader — of the GOP Establishment. He had been on the ticket in five presidential elections, and the Republicans had won four of those. Almost every Republican in Washington owed him favors. Only two years before, he had won a stupendous personal victory — carrying 49 of the 50 states in the 1972 Presidential election. Breaking with Nixon meant that the Democrats would sweep the 1974 midterm elections, and that the GOP Establishment might wander in the wilderness for years to come. It meant the end of many promising political careers, and the risk that Reagan’s outsiders would take over the Republican Party. And after all, why couldn’t the Republicans fight all charges? Why couldn’t they threaten Nixon’s enemies, and stonewall any impeachment proceedings, and try to drag out everything until after the 1976 election? They could have done that — but they didn’t. Instead, in early August 1974, key GOP leaders in Congress went to President Nixon and told him that his support on Capitol Hill had collapsed. Soon thereafter, Nixon resigned. The GOP Establishment was shattered. But it had done the right thing.

What about today’s Establishment? They understand Hillary Clinton’s character better than anyone — many of them have known her for decades. Many, no doubt, consider her to be a friend. All of them, by now, have an opinion on the three questions cited at the beginning of this piece. If they believe in her — if they trust her — then they should vouch for her. But if they don’t, then they should do everything possible to prevent her from holding high public office. This responsibility falls on the press. It falls on the biggest donors in both parties. It falls on people like the Bushes and Colin Powell who have held high public office. It also falls on Democrats — especially high-ranking Democrats like Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Some will believe, no doubt, that it’s easy for populists to make this type of demand — that it’s easy to call upon the elites to make this type of sacrifice. But the whole point of being in the elite is that you have special power — and a special responsibility. There’s no question that our elites have enjoyed their power. Now it’s time for them to live up to their responsibility.