US election 2016: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's long vitriolic road to the finale

The 2016 US election has been a roller coaster ride not just for the two polarising presidential candidates — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — but also for the American citizens and the rest of the world, with the drama unfolding rather like a caustic Shakespearean play. After months of mudslinging and rhetorical attacks,  the highly-charged election season might not even culminate on 8 November, especially if Donald Trump refuses to concede as hinted previously.

Although the latest polls put Hillary Clinton in the lead, there was never a time in the campaign period where a clear winner emerged. If Trump's putting 'American first' motto resonated among the blue collar workers, his logistically impossible and politically-disastrous proposal to build a border wall to stop immigration managed to alienate the huge Hispanic population. His lack of grip on policy matters and misogynist rants sent him sliding down the polls.

With a blustering opponent like Trump, it is natural to assume that Clinton's race to the White House would be smoother, but that was hardly the case. Back in July, despite FBI stating that there was no evidence suggesting that Clinton "intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information," a section of the American electorate found her 'untrustworthy'. Her campaign got an unprecedented push after Trump's infamous 'nasty woman' comment, but a fresh email scandal was waiting for her.

Just a day before Election Day, FBI director James Comey announced that the FBI's review of new emails did not uncover any wrongdoing by Clinton and the bureau has not changed its July recommendation not to charge her. Will it impact the outcome? We will find out in just a few hours. Immigration, gun control, abortion, foreign policy, economy — does anyone remember what Trump and Clinton's respective stands are on these issues? Probably not.  This election has largely been a personality contest. Although the Trump camp was never guided by policy-framing, in the last leg even the Democrats abandoned talk on policy and concentrated on launching an aggressive attack on the Republican candidate.

The second and third presidential debate was a train wreck for Trump where his incoherent defence of the tape bragging about sexual assault and distasteful "grab them by the p****" comment tipped the election in Clinton's favour. Days after the third debate, the Democrats launched a scathing ad against Trump using his misogynist comments and sent a powerful message to the American voters: 'Anyone who does what he does is unfit to be president.'

The CNN called this election "rhetorical warfare" with none of the presidential candidates specifying what they will do if they are elected president. While Clinton has been unable to engage Trump to discuss policy, her camp upped the ante against her opponent with some of the star campaigners, including the outgoing President Barack Obama, rallying by her side.

Addressing students at Florida International University in Miami, Obama urged to voters to get serious about the election. "This isn't a joke. This isn't Survivor. This isn't The Bachelorette," he said, taunting the former reality TV star (Trump), reported AP.

Just when Clinton was enjoying a lead over Trump, Comey's announcement of the recent discovery of fresh cache of emails sent panic waves among the Democratic ranks after which the party trained its gun on the FBI director. On Comey's letter to Congress, Clinton had said at a rally, “It’s pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information right before an election. In fact, it’s not just strange; it’s unprecedented and it is deeply troubling.”

Howard Gleckman writes for Forbes that though polls showed that economy is one of the concerning issues this election, none of the candidates have dwelled much on it, they have rather focused on trying to prove why their opponent is "unfit" to be the President. He writes: "And in an historically nasty race, both Clinton and Trump attack each other daily for being unfit to serve. Not for being wrong on the issues, but for being unworthy of the oval office." 

A poll conducted by the New York Times/CBS suggested that a majority of the voters are "disgusted" with the politicking and doubt that either of the  two major candidates will be able to "united the country".

Support for Clinton are coming of the African-Americans, Hispanics, women and young voters - the demographics which sent Obama to the White House, however, Clinton camp also released a blitzkrieg of ads to target Trump, especially keeping in mind the voters in the swing states.  Take for example the ad that features Bruce Blair, a former nuclear missile launch officer, who questions whether Trump can be trusted with nuclear weapons.

According to The New Yorker, the concept of negative ads is not new in American politics. In his piece for The New Yorker, John Cassidy argues that focusing on Trump's negatives, Clinton has been able to drive attention to her positive campaign. "In a polarised political environment, where compromise is a non-starter to begin with, engaging in all-out political warfare is the logical option to pursue," he writes.

Today, America might be electing the 'lesser of the evils' once the battle of rhetoric is over, the newly-elected President of the United States will have to talk policy and leave the bickering to the rest.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Updated Date: Nov 08, 2016 11:21 AM

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