Election Day in America: Democracy itself is on the ballot

Credit: AP

So here we are, 1,382 days since President Trump's inauguration, with America facing its moment of truth. The final day of voting is underway in the United States.

In the old days, it was called Election Day. But now most Americans vote early or by post, and so this is really just the end of a long process. An incredible 100 million voters have already cast a ballot.

It is a race that pits Donald Trump, America's 45th President, against Joe Biden, who served as America's 47th Vice President.

Donald Trump arrives at the White House on Tuesday morning as voters head to the polls:

But both campaigns say it not just about two politicians, but about the fate of the nation.

Joe Biden says that America's character and decency are on the ballot today.

Donald Trump says law and order and the economy are at stake.

In other words, this is an election between two men and two visions for America.

Joe Biden began Election Day with a visit to church in Delaware:

But let's be clear, this election is not normal. This is not a festival of democracy or the celebration of a successful nation allowing voters to weigh in.

Washington's shops and businesses are boarded-up and residents are deeply nervous. The city is deserted.

New, "unscalable" security fencing rings the White House. Multiple law enforcement agencies are on standby for riots and disturbances.

This is a nation that has lost its self-confidence. Far from being "the shining city on the hill," it is a country whose light is dimming amid a gathering gloom.

America is facing a pandemic that has killed a quarter of a million people; an economic crisis that is witnessing spiralling wealth inequality and homelessness; and a dysfunction at the heart of its politics.

Shops are boarding up their windows in expectation of disruption following the result. Credit: AP

But, above all, it is facing deep incivility.

The national conversation is shrill and angry. The media landscape is polarized and divisive. There are two camps - adoringly pro-Trump and viscerally anti-Trump.

Those two sides don't look upon each other with suspicion, but with hatred and contempt.

The White House, an ominous sight, with fences erected around the site, Credit: AP

We may - or may not - know the result by Wednesday morning. But the division won't be healed overnight.

If he loses, the president will have one final decision to make.

Does he accept defeat and walk off the stage with a degree of dignity, reluctantly embracing the political norms that he despises?

Or does he go down with all guns blazing, saying he has been cheated, and alleging that the election has been stolen by Democrats?

The world watches on for the results of a US presidential election like no other. Credit: AP

The post-result Trump speech will be the most important moment in American politics for decades. It will determine whether an erratic presidency that began with one wild conspiracy theory ends with another even more toxic one.

Donald Trump's was propelled to political prominence when he adopted the "birther" claim that Barack Obama was born in Africa.

His presidency is likely to finish with him saying that the election has been rigged.  And that would be one of the darkest moments since America emerged from Civil War.

Watch Trump vs Biden: The Results on Tuesday 3rd November from 11pm on ITV and itv.com/news.