Former president Jimmy Carter prior to the game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Cincinnati Bengals at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
CNN  — 

Former President Jimmy Carter warned Wednesday that democracy is being threatened throughout the country, cautioning that “our great nation now teeters on the brink of a widening abyss.”

Carter, writing in a New York Times op-ed published on the eve of the anniversary of the January 6 insurrection, charged that “without immediate action, we are at genuine risk of civil conflict and losing our precious democracy.”

“Americans,” the 97-year-old former President said, “must set aside differences and work together before it is too late.”

A year ago, the Democrat had joined the three other living former Presidents – Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton – in deriding the violent rioters who stormed the Capitol as Congress met to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election for President Joe Biden. On Wednesday, Carter wrote that “promoters of the lie that the election was stolen have taken over one political party and stoked distrust in our electoral systems.”

Carter said he had hope that the deadly attack on the Capitol “would shock the nation into addressing the toxic polarization that threatens our democracy.”

But politicians, he said, “have leveraged the distrust they have created to enact laws that empower partisan legislatures to intervene in election processes” and “seek to win by any means, and many Americans are being persuaded to think and act likewise, threatening to collapse the foundations of our security and democracy with breathtaking speed.”

“I now fear that what we have fought so hard to achieve globally – the right to free, fair elections, unhindered by strongman politicians who seek nothing more than to grow their own power – has become dangerously fragile at home,” said Carter, who in his post-presidency started the Carter Center, a nonprofit that monitors free elections around the globe.

The former President offered five points to secure elections in the United States: American citizens must agree on constitutional norms and respect each other despite political differences; the country should push for election reforms to ensure access to and confidence in elections; the country should resist polarization; the country should reject violence in politics; and lastly, disinformation must be addressed.

“For American democracy to endure, we must demand that our leaders and candidates uphold the ideals of freedom and adhere to high standards of conduct,” he said.