US election: Will normal rules ultimately apply?

Donald Trump Image copyright Getty Images

Voters everywhere are in a mutinous mood. They seem hell-bent on defying conventional wisdom and making a mockery of orthodox punditry. They do not want to be bound by customary rules or behavioural norms.

That rebellious spirit has been glaringly evident during this American election season. It is seen most obviously in the rise of Donald Trump, the failure of establishment conservatives like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, the time it has taken Hillary Clinton to close the deal, and the unexpectedly strong showing of her rival, Bernie Sanders, who won in Indiana this week.

In Britain, it is demonstrated in the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn and even that online poll to decide upon a name for a new polar research ship, which ended up with a landslide victory for Boaty McBoatface.

Break-the-rules politics seems to be the order of the day. Voters seem determined to make the politically impossible become real. But normal and longstanding rules will most probably decide the outcome of the US presidential election and who ends up in the White House.

The black vote

The race for the Democratic presidential nomination offers a case in point. Nobody predicted that Bernie Sanders would win 18 contests and still be in the race by the time that baseball umpires started shouting, "Play Ball!"

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Have New York's struggles shaped the Trump campaign?

Media captionDonald Trump is expected to is expected to win by a big margin in New York.

His name is emblazoned all over the city. On luxury condominiums, high-rise residential buildings, office blocks and hotels, and at some of New York's most prestigious addresses, Fifth Avenue, Wall Street, Park Avenue, the United Nations Plaza and even the ice rink in Central Park.

TRUMP, often spelt out in gold capital letters in a font called Stymie Bold, is ubiquitous.

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UN secretary general: The other New York race

New Year's Eve celebrations in Times Square, New York City Image copyright AFP
Image caption The turn of the year will mark the beginning of the new UN secretary general's term

As the hoopla of the presidential campaign comes to New York, featuring the political all-stars seeking to become the world's most powerful leader, another race is also under way in the city - a contest of the largely obscure.

It involves candidates hoping to become the world's most prominent diplomat.

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Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the 'None of the Above' era in politics

Donald Trump Image copyright Getty Images

As the world looks on askance at the freakishness of the US presidential election, it is worth bearing in mind that a large number of Americans feel much the same sense of unease.

To outside eyes, the rise of Donald Trump especially looks like the ultimate "Only in America" story, but many of his compatriots wish it was a "Not in America" phenomenon.

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How did Obama and Cameron fall out?

Obama and Cameron looking in opposite directions Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Seeing things differently - President Obama expressed frustrations with British foreign policy

Barack Obama has revealed his frustration with aspects of Britain's foreign policy under David Cameron. What does it mean for US-UK relations?

Last week was the 70th anniversary of the speech in which Winston Churchill coined the phrase "special relationship" (an oration at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, which, incidentally, also lodged "iron curtain" in the diplomatic lexicon). In the intervening decades, Downing Street has obsessed about its status. These are the most sacred words in British diplomacy. Maintaining an intimate friendship with Washington has been the bedrock of post-war British foreign policy.

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Could Trump's vulgarity cost him the nomination?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets reporters in the spin room following a debate sponsored by Fox News at the Fox Theatre on March 3, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan Image copyright Getty Images

Stray penises have long been a problem for presidential aspirants, but ordinarily candidates try to conceal the evidence rather than boast about the dimensions of their manhood.

Donald Trump's decision to do so in a televised debate last Thursday, in response to childish taunts from Marco Rubio that the size of his stubby fingers was indicative of other bodily endowments, may well come to be regarded as a turning point in the race - the moment when his bawdy, frat boy boastfulness impeded his path to the Republican nomination.

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Why we should have seen Trump coming

Chris Christie and Donald Trump Image copyright Getty Images

On Super Tuesday Donald Trump's hostile takeover of the Republican Party should come even closer, and like stiff-collared executives in some wood-panelled boardroom trying belatedly to fight off a corporate raid, the GOP high command seems incapable of stopping him.

For them, Super Tuesday could become Black Tuesday. Friday must have been gloomy enough, when Chris Christie, supposedly a card-carrying member of the establishment, kissed Donald Trump's hands and gave this political outsider his endorsement.

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The crisis of US governability

Justice Antonin Scalia Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Justice Scalia's death has pushed Washington politics into overdrive

As a case study in Washington dysfunction, the battle over who should fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by the death of Antonin Scalia is hard to better.

It brings into collision the three branches of the US government, the executive, the legislative and the judicial. It exposes the extreme partisanship that has become the hallmark of Washington politics.

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Donald Trump turns notoriety into a win

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump walks on stage to speak after Primary day at his election night watch party at the Executive Court Banquet facility on February 9, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Trump was projected the Republican winner shortly after the polls closed Image copyright Getty Images

So Donald J Trump has sealed the deal.

The billionaire has shown in New Hampshire that he can turn publicity, controversy, even notoriety, into a winning margin of votes - indeed, a large winning margin.

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American exceptionalism in a time of American malaise

Statue of Liberty

Though a Frenchman was the first person to describe America as "exceptional" and a Soviet, Joseph Stalin, inadvertently helped popularise the phrase "American exceptionalism" - he called it a "heresy" - the notion the United States is not just unique but superior has long been an article of national faith.

Writing in Democracy in America, which set out to explain why the American Revolution had succeeded while the French Revolution had failed, Alexis de Tocqueville observed Americans were "quite exceptional", by which he meant different rather than better.

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