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Hillary Clinton takes on Donald Trump in the third and final presidential election debate. Photograph by Getty Images
Commentary

The Bleakest of Choices

Oct 20, 2016

Last night’s debate was the last big event in what’s been an exceptionally difficult election year for anyone who cares about the future of American business or the prospects for American prosperity.

On one side, the Democratic Party has turned increasingly antagonistic toward business. The clearest evidence of that is the strangling entanglement of new regulations that has built up since 2008 and is the subject of the cover story in the November issue of Fortune magazine, which you can read this morning here. Clinton’s true attitude toward business remains a matter of contradictory evidence, but she has adopted much of the fiery language of her former opponent, socialist Bernie Sanders, and if elected she will have to deal with Sanders’ fierce supporters.

On the other side, Donald Trump has built his campaign on an attack on the very principles of globalization that fueled post–World War II prosperity. Moreover, he has catered to the public’s basest instincts. His promotion of conspiracy theories, his fomenting of racist sentiment, his abusive comments and behavior toward women, his open adulation of authoritarian leaders, and his determination to trust gut over evidence all make him the least temperamentally suited candidate that either major party has put forward to lead the nation in modern times.

Some business optimists hope a post-election truce between a President Clinton and House Speaker Ryan could lead to productive legislation. But the prospects for that outcome may founder on the final legacy that Trump threatens to leave the nation: discrediting the legitimacy of the outcome by claiming the election is “rigged.” (You can read my full editor’s note on this topic in the November issue here.)

Speaking yesterday at the end of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, Ivanka Trump said she expected her father will “accept the outcome either way.”

Also this morning, we’re publishing the inside story of hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen’s remarkable comeback, which also will be in our November magazine.

Enjoy the day.

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