Less than 24 hours after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein incinerated his professional reputation by authoring and signing a document that President Donald Trump used as his excuse for firing FBI Director James Comey, Rosenstein’s defenders starting leaking to the media that Rosenstein nearly resigned over the whole episode.

If anyone, including Rosenstein, believed this behind-the-scenes look into his thought process would salvage his reputation, they clearly don’t understand what a reputation is. The time to resign would have been when Rosenstein was ordered to write the memo, which has been derided by legal experts as a “bad op-ed.”

The reason why 94 Senators voted to approve Rosenstein’s nomination as Deputy Attorney General is because throughout his nearly 30-year career as a prosecutor, Rosenstein had earned the respect of Democrats and Republicans alike. He also had a reputation as an attorney of integrity who placed the law above partisanship. But Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law professor with years of experience in the Department of Justice and Department of Defense, was so stunned by Rosenstein’s role in Comey’s firing that he said it would now be impossible to judge how anyone joining the Trump administration would act since “as of seven or eight hours ago, Rod Rosenstein had a reputation for extraordinary independence which based on what we know now doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.” (Goldsmith knows a thing or two about political independence. He led the Office of Legal Counsel for George W. Bush, and resigned his position in order to draw attention to his memo to Bush showing that the legal documents the administration had been relying on to justify the use of torture in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were defective.)

In the long six months since Trump won the presidency, we’ve watched as one leader after another has thrown away their reputations by folding in the face of Trump’s bluster. House Speaker Paul Ryan is probably the most public example. But even the “maverick” Sen. John McCain has limited his willingness to confront Trump to mere tough talk. Although he surely knew that Attorney General Jeff Sessions would be an ethical disaster for the Department of Justice, McCain nonetheless voted to approve his appointment.

The reputational damage Trump wreaks has even trickled down to state and local officials. Here in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker was too timid to criticize Trump for appointing a white supremacist as one of his key advisors. In the sanctuary city debates that have popped up across Massachusetts in the wake of Trump’s anti-immigrant fervor, there have been numerous examples of courage, but it’s not at all hard to find municipal leaders who refuse to back such measures for fear that Trump will make good on his threat to withhold federal monies from sanctuary cities.

This kind of cowardice is nothing new. But the cascade effect of watching every reputation touched by Trump turn to ash feels new. If the Republic survives Trump, we need to remember who did what to enable Trump, and we must never let anyone forget.

This will be much harder to do than it sounds.

Forty-three years ago, Richard Nixon ordered his Attorney General Eliot Richardson to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate break-in. Richardson refused to fire Cox and resigned in protest. Nixon then turned to Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus and ordered him to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus also refused and resigned. Nixon finally found his yes man in Solicitor General Robert Bork, who fired Cox.

Fourteen years after Bork’s grotesque act of sycophancy, Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Supreme Court. This attempt by the hard right to reward Bork’s willingness to put party over country was met with fierce resistance, and a bipartisan majority of senators ultimately blocked his nomination. The incident should be remembered as a principled defense of democracy. Instead, thanks to short memories polluted by rank partisanship, it’s remembered quite differently today: nearly everyone on the right, on the left, and in the center traces the beginning of the end of Senate decorum to Bork’s defeat.

American voters, despite the low regard with which they hold politicians, are quick to forgive their leaders’ most egregious missteps. That’s fine. But going forward, we can’t afford to forget anything about the morally corrupt Trump administration. If we get out of the next four years intact, who can say if democracy would survive a second round like this?

Susan Ryan-Vollmar, a communications consultant, was formerly editor-in-chief of Bay Windows and news editor of the Boston Phoenix.