Dear United States of America,
At first, we thought the Trump thing was just a phase you were going through. Your endless election cycle, with infinite ink to be spilled and pixels to be filled, means that every candidate gets his 15 minutes. So you gave Donald Trump 15 minutes. And then you gave him another 15. And then, pretty soon, he'd taken over prime time. And now he's on the verge of being elected President. This matters because, as you know, it's the planet's most powerful job.
This U.S. election, unlike any since the Second World War, is white knuckle time for the rest of the world. Foreign governments don't want to interfere in your democracy, so they can't say what they really think about Trump. But we can. We're terrified.
We can't believe that given a choice between one mildly flawed candidate and another peddling an explosive combo of bad ideas, no ideas and zero self-control, you're having trouble choosing.
Does the entire planet feel this way? No. If you want to cheer up Vladimir Putin, or bring a smile to the faces of the hard men who rule China, then by all means, pull the lever for Trump. But the rest of us, your friends and allies in the free world, are pushing the panic button.
For three-quarters of a century, we've looked to the United States for leadership and stability. America and its leaders are not always perfect; the Founding Fathers built your political system on a recognition that all human beings are flawed. America, like any country, has made missteps and mistakes; it has sometimes wronged others, and sometimes they have wronged it.
But over time, the United States has been largely a force for good in this world. In World War II, you saved democracy. You rebuilt Europe and Japan. You won the Cold War. You led the establishment of an international order based on freedom, democracy, law and trade.
Nobody has to make you "Great Again." You're already great. You're already the indispensable nation at the centre of the international system. The Europeans can't replace you, and while Moscow and Beijing would like to, no one on the side of freedom and democracy wants that. We don't have an entire Justice League of superpowers to choose from. You're it.
That's why a Trump presidency sets alarm bells ringing. The international system can survive all sorts of minor countries going off the rails. Hungary is led by a man who proudly calls himself an illiberal democrat; the world shrugs. The Philippines is governed by a president whose every pronouncement is more intemperate than the last; the world laughs. But if Mr. Trump moves into the White House, America's allies will neither shrug nor laugh.
We understand some of the reservations about Hillary Clinton. That she violated arcane government email protocols, a tempest in a tiny teapot if there ever was one, is no reason to vote against her. But the chain of donors and employees running through government to the Clinton foundation and back again should concern you – as it points out how Washington, on both sides of the aisle, is rotten with the whiff of money and influence-peddling.
But in terms of education, experience and temperament, Ms. Clinton is exceptionally well-qualified to be President. Her policies, foreign and domestic, are far better than the Republican alternative. As a politician, however, something about Ms. Clinton has always rubbed a lot of Americans the wrong way, and the Democratic Party's decision to nominate her was a political error. She's the one candidate able to get independents and moderate Republicans to overlook Mr. Trump's overwhelming unfitness for the job.
Mr. Trump's platform, such as it is, promises lower taxes for the wealthy, some tax increases in the middle, and a loss of health insurance for many poor Americans. And that's the conventional part of his package.
His attack on free trade, which Republicans traditionally supported, is a shot at a cornerstone of the international order America built. His repeated deflection of criticism of Mr. Putin is troubling. His statements of sympathy for other illiberal regimes are concerning. His plans for how to deal with issues like Syria, Iraq and ISIS are self-contradictory and absurdly thin.
Above all, Mr. Trump is an authoritarian. He's not much interested in ideas or rules, and that includes the U.S. Constitution, the most cerebral of government documents. His values and impulses are not those of the America – the great America – the world knows and needs.
And yet Mr. Trump trails Ms. Clinton by only the slimmest of margins. He's got the wind in his sails. America is this close to electing President Trump.
Someone once said that America can always be relied upon to do the right thing – having first exhausted all other alternatives. America, it's less than a week to voting day. Your alternatives are now exhausted.