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.

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