It is no understatement to suggest the world awaits the outcome of the United States presidential election today with trepidation.

Victory for Donald Trump, which opinion polls indicate is unlikely but not impossible, would send shockwaves far beyond the yet-to-be-fenced US borders. Triumph for Hillary Clinton, which seems narrowly more likely, will quite possibly leave America facing four years of bitter division and rancour if nothing is done to repair the country's fractured political landscape.

Clinton is not without flaws, but they are truly eclipsed by the baleful shadow which Trump has cast over the campaign.

He has fomented racial tensions. His coded remarks about a stolen and rigged election have encouraged some Republicans to threaten Clinton with impeachment should she prevail.


The implication is that if Trump's forces do not take government fairly then they will work to undermine it. Today's election is partly about these politics of division and it is why an anxious globe is watching so carefully.

Trump has denigrated Muslims and the disabled. He has uttered falsehoods and he has been revealed as a wealthy man who does not pay his taxes. He has also tapped into an American vein which courses with anger and a sense of unfairness and which has carried him to the gates of the Oval Office.

The voters will decide whether to reward him with the key. In office, Trump would cut taxes on rich Americans and impose tariffs which would raise the cost of living on the poorest of families. He would withdraw from the institutions which secure global stability at a time when China is flexing its muscles and Putin's weakened Russia is desperate to rattle cages.

Clinton, on the other hand, has struggled to galvanise Democrats, partly because she has been cast so easily as a Washington insider. It is easy to see now why her Democrat rival Bernie Sanders - who stirred up the party base with his outsider appeal - generated such enthusiasm during the primary season.

But Clinton won the day then, and America's allies, including New Zealand, would hope she succeeds today, given what has emerged in the last six weeks. She has campaigned for an open, optimistic country. She has experience, judgment, toughness and could tackle the broken state of Washington politics with resolve.

It is unsurprising that someone in the public eye for as long she has been has made mistakes. But the absurd demand from her opponents to "lock her up" is a campaign calumny.

It was wrong to use a private email server as secretary of state, but that was not, as the FBI found not once but twice, a criminal offence. Her involvement with the Clinton Foundation seems at best problematic and she would be wise to place the structure beyond arms' length.

For New Zealand's trading future, a Clinton win would seem the positive outcome, even though she has under pressure walked away from Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. In terms of the political relationship the best hope would be a Democratic victory in the Congress and the presidency.


After 240 years since independence, and in light of the man who craves the job, Clinton would be deserving as the first woman in the White House.