NC-09 endorsement: It’s about more than the Dans. It’s about The Donald.

It should come as little surprise that this editorial board is endorsing Dan McCready in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District special election. We endorsed McCready, a moderate Democrat, in the 9th District race last fall that was tainted by absentee ballot fraud. “McCready has far more potential to effectively represent the 9th, and to help change the tone in Congress,” we said then.

We still believe that, and we believe that McCready’s opponent in this special election, Republican Dan Bishop, has shown himself unfit to represent the 9th. Bishop is the unrepentant author of HB2, a discriminatory law that cost Charlotte and North Carolina millions of dollars in business and lost events. “There’s no Mecklenburg legislator we can remember who has done more damage to Charlotte,” we said about him in 2016.

The choice facing voters is clear, but it’s possible many will decide to skip this special election, given that in some ways it’s less meaningful than a traditional congressional race. After all, the U.S. House majority has been decided for this term, and whoever wins this election will have to do it all over again next year.

But the 9th District election carries some real consequence, because in many ways, it is about neither of the Dans. It’s about Donald Trump, just as most races for Congress will be in the coming year. We are at a critical moment in this country with an erratic president who threatens both political and structural norms, including calling the Federal Reserve chief an “enemy” Friday. This 9th District election might be about one small corner of the U.S. House, but it is the first of many races in which we’ll be making a choice about our country’s path the next four years and beyond.

Quite simply, a vote for Dan Bishop is a vote for Donald Trump. Bishop has embraced the Trump presidency. He vows to help the president build his wall at the southern border. He is far less likely than McCready to provide a check on the president — and far more likely to mirror his fellow Republicans’ silence at Trump’s reckless words and policies.

But perhaps as importantly, Bishop also has embraced Donald Trump’s style. In campaign ads, Bishop has called Democrats “clowns” and “crazy,” and he doesn’t object when his party’s campaign arm attacks his opponent with the childish label of “McGreedy.” This is not new for Bishop. He’s attacked LGBTQ advocates in the past, and he demeaned transgender people when he sneered that Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance was about “a cross-dresser’s liberty.”

Regardless of party or policy, such discourse should be beneath us, and such demonization threatens to irreparably divide us. But the president has normalized the kind of behavior our leaders once shunned. This election offers us another opportunity to declare that’s not who we want to be.

There’s a temptation in most elections to raise the stakes a little higher than necessary, to pronounce that the future of our country and democracy is on the line. Donald Trump is like no other president, however, and the path he paves already has led to places this country has never been. Last November, voters slowed that path by handing the U.S. House to Democrats. Now, voters in the 9th also have an opportunity to voice their dissatisfaction at the direction the president has taken their country. We hope they do so loudly.