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Previous story Dare we dream of a Joe Biden win? Given all that's at stake, not yet Next story

STORY BY JONATHAN FREEDLAND

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Published on October 24, 2020 8:11 AM

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Dare we dream of a Joe Biden win? Given all that's at stake, not yet
A friend calls to say he's been having anxiety dreams about Donald Trump. Another, a highly rational man with a forensic intellect, tells me he's found himself praying for a Joe Biden victory. A third reports checking polling website fivethirtyeight.com in the dead of night. Sometimes twice.

None of these people live in the US, and none is a US citizen. More to the point, none of them is especially neurotic. But something about the US presidential election, little more than a week away, is stressing people out. One study for the American Psychological Association found that more than two-thirds of American adults describe the current contest as "a significant source of stress in their lives", and that angst is radiating across the world.

Last night's second and final TV debate will hardly have helped. Trailing in the polls, it was Trump who needed a moment that might upend the race, and he didn't get one. On the other hand, he performed better than in the first bout – still the same stream of lies, but delivered with greater self-restraint – allowing commentators to rate this encounter a tie, give or take. Which means we're back to the status quo ante, with all the same dread as before.

The pundit class has an extra layer of unease. Addressing her fellow TV talking heads on Thursday, the MSNBC anchor Kasie Hunt declared that none of them were daring to say what they truly think because "we're all too shell-shocked by what happened in 2016". If they hadn't been so badly burned by the experience of mistakenly assuming Hillary Clinton would ...