We have watched the United States presidential race unfold for more than a year now (which is far too long for any country to spend electing its leaders) and, as I have said before on this blog, I was not surprised that Donald Trump became the Republican Party nominee or that he is doing creditably in the polls in spite of his best attempts to offend significant parts of the electorate. That doesn't mean I want to see him become the president. Everything he stands for (protectionism, crony capitalism, further restricting immigration, etc.) is anathema to me.
The problem is that the choice is Hillary Clinton, an inveterate liar who is has already demonstrated during her term as Secretary of State that she is likely to lead the most corrupt White House administration since that of Warren Harding. If you can overlook her illegal futures trading, her involvement in the Whitewater scandal, conspiracy theories that link her to murder, her cover up of her husband's sexual harassments and possibly even rape, her complicity in the deaths of US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens and his staff, her illegal use of a private email server to send and receive classified emails, and all the other tawdry scandals she has been connected with over the years, she's probably the best qualified candidate for the job!
It is an unfortunate effect of the moribund two-party US electoral system that the American people have ended up with such a dilemma. Voters shouldn't have to choose the least bad of two awful candidates for the most important political office in the land (and the world). But the dilemma is not new - last time voters had a choice between an incumbent who had one of the lowest approval ratings of any president and a magic-underpants-wearing former Wall Street fund manager. Obama may have been unpopular but he wasn't as unpopular as a banker in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Going back before Obama, the two major parties gave voters the uninspiring choice of George W Bush versus Al Gore and then John Kerry, and before that the Republicans gave us Bush 1 and Bob Dole against the more charismatic but morally-challenged Bill Clinton.
I think sound political leadership doesn't have much of a positive impact on a country - after all, the best we can hope for from our leaders is that they leave us alone to get on with our lives. But incompetent and corrupt leaders can really ruin a country - witness the effects on Venezuela of Chavez and Maduro, for example. While all is not well in America after eight years of Obama, you can at least say he hasn't made things significantly worse that his predecessor (with the possible exception of the health insurance system). I am not confident you will be able to say the same after Clinton or Trump.
I will be in North America over the next month and it will be interesting to observe the contest closer to the action.