A referendum on the soul of a divided nation
Clinton appeals for ‘more love and kindness,’ Trump calls for eradication of ‘rigged system’
PHILADELPHIA— America now decides what kind of place it wants to be.
The campaigning portion of a momentous, bitter, surreal U.S. presidential election ended Monday with Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump zipping around the country from morning to late night to scrap for votes in critical states.
Both of them made a case that did not sound, after all these months, like an exaggeration: Tuesday’s vote is a referendum on America’s soul.
Clinton appealed to voters’ better angels. “We don’t have to accept a dark and divisive vision for America,” she said in Pittsburgh. “Tomorrow you can vote for a hopeful, inclusive, big-hearted America. Our core values are being tested in this election.” Trump appealed to voters’ anger. “You have one magnificent chance to change a corrupt system,” he said in Raleigh, “and to deliver justice for every forgotten man, woman and child in this nation.”
Clinton said America needs “more love and kindness.” Trump said America needs to eradicate its “rigged system.”
The last batch of polls suggested Clinton was on track for a comfortable, historic victory.
The candidate seeking to become the first female president led by about four percentage points on average, and by as many as six points in some polls.
But the former secretary of state, senator and first lady showed no sign of complacency in an unpredictable year, playing both defence and offence on a four-rally day headlined by an appearance with her husband, the Obamas, Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi at a giant concert rally in Philadelphia — her second rally of the day in critical Pennsylvania.
“I’m betting that tomorrow, America will reject a politics of blame and resentment,” President Barack Obama said at Independence Hall. “I’m betting that tomorrow, you will reject fear, and you will choose hope. I’m betting that the decency and the generosity of the American people will win the day. And that’s a bet I’ve never lost.”
Clinton also showed up in Michigan, one of a few reliably Democratic states Trump might have to flip if he is to compensate for losing Pennsylvania, where he has not led in any poll in months.
She was to hold one last event at midnight in Raleigh, N.C., finishing in a state where she and Trump are locked in a dead heat. Trump did even more campaigning than Clinton as he tried to find a way, any way, to overcome a daunting deficit. He started in Sarasota, in the must-win state of Florida. He proceeded to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, with a grand finale scheduled for Grand Rapids, Mich.
More than 70 million Americans are expected to cast ballots on Tuesday, joining more than 40 million who have already voted. They will choose between two candidates who share a home state and financial privilege but little else.
The election pits a consummate Washington insider vowing to protect the president’s legacy against an outsider vowing to “drain the swamp.”
It pits a polarizing feminist icon against a macho man with a history of sexism and alleged sexual assault. It pits a conventional liberal against an unorthodox conservative.
Scripted against improvised, disciplined against erratic, prepared versus blustering. One attempting to build a broad multiracial coalition, one appealing to the nostalgia, resentment and economic anxiety of white people.
Above all, the election was about questions of identity, national and personal. Should America open its arms to the world or fortify itself both metaphorically and with an actual wall? Were illegal immigrants to be assimilated or summarily evicted? Were African-Americans making gains or mired in joblessness and hopelessness? Were Muslims a security threat or a part of the national fabric?
The electorate was sharply split along racial and gender lines. Trump was looking to turn out disaffected whites who have stayed home in past elections; Clinton was seeking a surge in voting among Hispanics, which early-voting results in Florida and Nevada suggested might be happening, and a better-than-usual showing with female white moderates dismayed by Trump’s behaviour and personality.
Trump, a businessman and reality television star whose candidacy was widely treated as a joke 17 months ago, managed to stay in contention despite an unceasing series of revelations that would have sunk a conventional politician. He spent his final hours in his typical atypical fashion: raging at assorted things that drew his ire.
He railed repeatedly against the “filthy” language of Beyoncé and Jay-Z, who performed at a Clinton rally on Friday, and asked mockingly if they were “singing or talking.” He assailed the president for using Air Force One to campaign for Clinton, saying it would hurt the “ozone layer.”
And, as so often, he boasted about himself. He drew massive crowds to the end. Hearing the roar of one of them, in Scranton, Pa., he said, “This is not the sound of a second-place finisher.” At least twice, he claimed he had “the greatest movement ever in the history of our country.”
Both Trump and Clinton remained unpopular throughout the campaign, Clinton slightly less than Trump, and they tried Monday to do what they had always done: focus voters’ attention on the other.
Clinton, seen to have a superior temperament, said the choice is “between strong and steady leaders and loose cannons who could put everything at risk.”
Trump, seen to be more authentic, blasted Clinton as “Crooked Hillary.”
There are also two prominent third-party candidates on the ballot, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Jill Stein. Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, has plummeted from relevance over the past month, but he remains at about 5 per cent, Stein at about 2 per cent.
Clinton and Trump will hold their respective Tuesday “victory” parties within a few kilometres of each other in New York City. Trump will be at a hotel, Clinton at a convention centre — under an actual glass ceiling.
Hillary Clinton held four rallies Monday, including one in Allendale, Mich.