It is seldom that the fate of a nation can be traced to what happened on one particular day. But that may be what happens in the United States of America on Tuesday, March 15, 2016.
That is because the front-runners in both political parties are not merely inadequate but appalling -- and the vote in this Tuesday's primaries may be the last chance for the voters to unite behind someone else.
The trends that brought us to this crucial day go back for years. But whatever the paths that led to this crossroads, we are in fact at a crossroads and our future, and our children's futures, depend on whether we can come up with some presidential candidate better than either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
In other times and in other conditions, one bad president could not ruin a great nation. We survived Jimmy Carter and we may survive Barack Obama, but there is no guarantee that we can survive an unlimited amount of reckless decisions in a dangerous world.
The dangers are both internal and external. Two of our bitterest enemies -- Iran and North Korea -- are openly declaring their desire to destroy us. And both are developing intercontinental missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.
These and other mortal dangers are a product of the feckless foreign policies carried out by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as the Obama administration weakened our military forces while our adversaries around the world have been rapidly strengthening theirs.
We will be lucky to survive the damage that has been done already. A third consecutive term of such policies, with Hillary Clinton in the White House, can be suicidal.
Internally, Hillary Clinton's whole political career has been based on polarizing the American population by race, sex, class and any other way that will serve her political interests. This kind of cynical political exploitation can take the "United" out of the United States, and Balkanize us into an internal war of each against all. That is a war in which we can all lose.
As for the Republicans' front-runner, what is there left to say about Donald Trump? Almost daily he demonstrates that he lacks the maturity, the depth and the character required to lead a nation facing a complex range of dangers.
It is not a question of his having flaws, which we all have. But what kind of warped character does someone have at his core who can mock a prisoner of war who was tortured for years by our enemies, mock someone else with a physical defect, reply to questions with gutter-level insults, and offer childish boasts about what he is going to do, instead of specifics about how?