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Course of US history hinges on election result

Inside Politics: Re-election of Trump by American people would bring darker period

Good morning.

This is the most consequential day in politics this year.

One of two things will happen. If Donald Trump wins, his re-election will echo around the world today. It would be a remarkable endorsement of a man whose leadership of his country has polarised his own society, encouraged autocrats and strongmen everywhere and rent asunder the consensus that has overseen relative peace and prosperity for the west since the second World War and that has been exported elsewhere.

If they re-elect Trump, the American people will have firmly closed the book on that period of history. Something new and darker awaits.


But the defeat of Donald Trump, even by a tight margin, would send a message that would also echo around the world today. For people – the majority in this country, probably – who believe in western liberal values, in co-operation, in trade and multilateralism, it would be a thrilling moment. The world would heave a sigh of relief.

We’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out which it is. The election is a cliffhanger, with no clear winner in sight this morning.

The election will be won and lost in the American rustbelt, and in particular in the three big swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Most likely, whoever wins two out of that three will win the election. The counting of votes is continuing, slowly.

Challenges may be expected, as early votes and mail-in ballots – expected to favour Joe Biden – are factored in. It may end up in the courts. Trump has already accused Democrats of trying to “steal” the election last night.

And so now, the world holds its breath, waiting to see if America – the global leader and (for all its faults) guarantor of liberal democracy, free markets and western values since the mid-1940s – is a properly functioning democracy.

Will all the votes be counted? Will the election reflect the will of its people, freely expressed at the ballot box? Do its courts operate independently of the executive, according to the law, and is its government subject to those laws? As the numbers totter in this morning and pundits grapple on the divided airwaves, these questions are yet to be answered.

But it is scarcely possible to overstate the importance for the world of what happens in the next 48 hours. This is history in the making.

The counting of votes will continue this morning. The lawyers are mobilising. This could go on for some time. Y'all better get some sleep. You can get the news on when you wake up. As Bill Clinton said in 2000, the people have spoken. But it's going to take some time to figure out what they said.

Chastened Varadkar set to survive leaking affair

Voting was continuing when the print edition of The Irish Times went to bed last night, so our lead story reports the grilling of Leo Varadkar in the Dáil by Opposition TDs on the subject that has transfixed politics here in recent days – the leaking of the GPs contract in 2019.

Around Leinster House last night, there was an expectation that he would survive. There was certainly no desire from either Fianna Fáil or the Green Party to escalate the situation.

The story is here.

Marie O'Halloran's report of the Dáil proceedings is here.

My analysis is here. I think Varadkar survives, but chastened and somewhat diminished within Government. Miriam Lord's take is here.

We also have a special podcast on last night's debate that you can listen to here.

Best reads

Jennifer Bray reports the Government will nobble a Labour attempt to prevent schools from keeping places for the children of past pupils.

Jack Horgan-Jones reports the legal advice to the Government on access to Mother and Baby Homes records changed with the new Attorney General.

Kathy Sheridan on the legacy of Trump.

Michael McDowell wonders if Ireland's laws should reflect a Christian country.


At least 90 per cent of political time and energy today will be spent talking about the US presidential election.

A no-doubt bleary-eyed Dáil gets under way at 10am in the Convention Centre, and Leaders' Questions are at 12. The Finance Bill also comes to the Dáil today. There's also an extension of special Covid powers, along with the weekly divisions. Full schedule here.

There's quite a bit of action at the committees. Full details here.

For those who stayed up last night, a national nap hour might be in order during the afternoon. Otherwise you'll find everything you need to know about Irish and US politics on