The good news is that both political conventions are now behind us. The bad news is that the election is ahead of us.
No one knows how this election will turn out but — given the awful presidential candidates in both parties — the worst case scenario may be only marginally worse than the best case scenario. National polls may suggest a close election ahead but presidential elections are not decided by who has a majority of the popular vote. In a country already divided, if not polarized, one candidate could win the popular vote and the other candidate win the Electoral College vote, which is what decides who goes to the White House. That could polarize us more than ever.
Everything may depend on what happens in the battleground states where neither party has a decisive advantage. Until recently, Hillary Clinton seemed to have a clear lead in those states. But that difference has narrowed to within the margin of error in some state polls.
Turnout is the wild card, in this election more than in most. There was booing in both conventions — and there are other signs that those who lost are not taking it kindly. How the losers vote, or stay home on election day, may determine who the winner will be.
If the Democrats lose this election, and Trump beats Hillary, it may not be anything more than losing a given election, as happens regularly, and Democrats can just regroup for the next election.
But if the Republicans lose, it can be much more serious for them and for the country. If Hillary Clinton inspires distrust, Donald Trump inspires disgust, even among many Republicans. If Trump goes down to defeat, he could taint the whole Republican party, costing them the Senate now and future elections later.
Even if Trump disappears from the political scene after defeat, his reckless, ugly and childish words will live on in innumerable videos that can be used for years to come, to taint Republicans as the party that chose such a shallow egomaniac as its candidate for President of the United States.
A President Trump could of course create a longer-lasting stigma. However, he might possibly be sobered up by the responsibilities of the presidency. But someone who has not matured in 70 years seems unlikely to grow up in the next 4 years.
With Hillary Clinton as President and Democrats in control of the Senate, she can appoint Supreme Court justices with as much contempt for the law as she has demonstrated herself, and Senate Democrats would rubber-stamp her choices.
Democrats have already shown their desire to stifle the free-speech rights of people who disagree with them on global warming and other issues. Hillary Clinton has made no secret of her desire to have the Supreme Court reverse its decision that corporations and labor unions both have free-speech rights.
The Obama Department of Justice has already been looking into ways that anti-racketeering laws can be used to threaten individuals and organizations that challenge the global warming scenario that has been used to promote more government control of what fuels can be used.
The Second Amendment right to have a gun is at least as threatened as the First Amendment right to free speech would be if Hillary Clinton gets to pick Supreme Court justices. The lifetime tenure of federal judges means that whoever is in the White House for the next four years can change the course of American law for decades to come, losing our freedoms irretrievably.
Much has been made of Hillary's "experience" in politics. But it has been an experience of having proved to be wrong, time and time again. As a Senator she opposed the military "surge" in Iraq that rescued that country and defeated the terrorists.
As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton carried out foreign policy decisions that led to major setbacks for American interests as far as the eye can see — whether in Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Ukraine, North Korea or China. This is the kind of "experience" we don't need to see repeated in the White House.
Voting for an out of control egomaniac like Donald Trump would be like playing Russian roulette with the future of this country. Voting for someone with a track record like Hillary Clinton's is like putting a shotgun to your head and pulling the trigger. And not voting at all is just giving up.
Nobody said that being a good citizen would be easy.
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.