As the election neared, I heard more and more outlandish remarks about John McCain and Barack Obama. I was told that voting for Obama put me close to the ideology of the world’s tyrants. I read here in the comments that only the stupid, rich and racist are voting for McCain. I’ve seen, again and again, partisans of both sides concocting apocalyptic scenarios should the “other guy” win.

Guess what? It’s going to be fine no matter the outcome.

In America, the distance between the mainstream left and the mainstream right is not that far. Rhetoric and wedge issues make us seem to be at great odds with one another, but we share a large number of ideals, dreams and principles. Both Obama and McCain have made that point this election, but many of their supporters prefer to believe otherwise. They see this election as a battle for America’s soul.

When I look to the left or the right, I don’t see a “soul.” I don’t find the “true” America or a “correct” America. I see two collections of views, often with similar goals albeit different tactics. Sure, I see some nuttiness. I also see a lot of wisdom. But, to me, America’s soul does not rest in one political ideology or one platform.

America’s soul rests in what we’re doing today. America’s soul is democracy.

Our process is messy and often contentious. We aren’t the most civil of people when it comes to politics. And nobody would accuse us of gracefulness. But we not only have the right to express our beliefs, we can vote for them. Obama. McCain. Bob Barr. Ralph Nader. Cynthia McKinney. I don’t agree with all those figures (some I oppose quite strongly), but I’m proud to live in a nation where such diversity exists freely and peacefully.

Our two-party system can make us feel like a nation divided and can lead otherwise sober people to make outrageous claims about their political opponents. At times, I worry that we will fracture along the lines falsely drawn and promoted by those who care about nothing more than power. But then I remember the two parties are by no means monolithic. If the Republicans can house Ron Paul and the Democrats can shelter Dennis Kucinich, then I have faith that we still have enough diversity and enough advocacy of differing ideas to inoculate us against the single-mindedness of the most ardent ideologues.

Perhaps I am optimistic far beyond what is wise. But I love this country not just for what it can be, but for what it already is. And I believe, whether McCain is president or whether it is Obama, we will not only survive but will thrive. You might prefer to believe the fate of the nation hinges on this election. I think the fact that , after 232 years, we’re still having these elections and that they are freer than ever is proof that our fate is sound and our future will be bright.

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