It has been an extraordinary election. As the last US voters go to the polls tomorrow – 24 million have already voted – many will look back despairingly at a contest that boils down to a choice of the least disliked candidate, both sharing historically low approval ratings, and in which warnings of apocalypse – "the fate of the world is teetering," Barack Obama told students, perhaps overstating his case – insults, and hyperbole on all sides pushed aside political debate. In the fog of war truth has been, as ever, the first casualty.
A poll conducted for the New York Times and CBS News ahead of the weekend found that eight out of 10 voters say the campaign left them repulsed. It's not just the candidates but politics itself, democracy in the US, that is being tested.
It is cold comfort for those fearful for democracy that the poll found a rekindled zeal among Donald Trump voters, with 52 per cent "very enthusiastic" about voting. As the gap between the two narrows, turnout becomes crucial and such renewed enthusiasm by previously reluctant Republicans may suffice to tip the balance.
Ominously, it is clear that if Hillary Clinton wins her problems are just beginning. Trump's wild claims of election rigging and his outrageous refusal to pledge to accept a Clinton victory is an attack on a key pillar of democracy and is legitimising potentially violent protests. A Clinton victory "would create an unprecedented and protracted constitutional crisis," he boasts. A crisis that would be entirely of his making. But he is not alone in preparing to defy a democratic majority. Republicans in Congress are promising to make the new president's life hell, with talk of a flood of inquiries and even impeachment. Former New York mayor and Trump loyalist Rudy Giuliani is revelling in the prospect: "I guarantee you in one year she'll be impeached and indicted".
If Republicans retain the Senate, they are already talking of refusing to approve any Clinton nominee to fill the important Supreme Court vacancy, blocked by them since March. All hope of legislative bipartisanship is a thing of the past. "In effect what they are saying," the New York Times editorialised of the Republicans, " is Mrs Clinton won't be able to govern because we won't let her . So do not waste your vote on her. Vote for us."
America’s friends around the world are watching this extraordinary, agonising process with bewilderment and concern. The decision being made by the world’s most powerful and most influential country is as important for us as for its citizens. The choice is between continuity and wild unpredictability, internationalism and xenophobia, economic rationality and voodoo economics, a commitment to the rule of law or a contempt for everything except self-interest. But we don’t get to vote – all we can do is hope, for our sake and theirs, that Clinton wins this election. America, listen to the better angels of your nature!