Whatever the outcome of the 2020 elections, all you really need to know about the two presidential candidates was evident in how they reacted Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.

President Donald Trump, the incumbent Republican, prematurely declared victory. Then he threatened to sue, and then he said that “they” (presumably meaning his opponents) were “trying to STEAL the election,” and that the vote-counting was “a major fraud on our nation.”

He had no basis in fact, but that’s the way he rolls. He says whatever he thinks will immediately benefit himself. He undermines public faith in the country’s institutions simply to serve his own short-term interests, without any evidence whatsoever. Power and leverage are the only truth he thinks he needs. Just get the deal done.

Perhaps you think he has the right policies. That’s fine. But you have to acknowledge that he’s a bully and a liar. Perhaps you say all politicians lie, and you’d be right, but Mr. Trump’s lying dwarfs anyone else’s. Even his supporters know this.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden, the Democrat with an entire lifetime in the U.S. Senate, urged caution. He said the process would work itself out, and it wasn’t for him or Mr. Trump to declare a winner. Process. Precedent. Institutions. Hope; maybe even false hope. “We believe we are on track to win this election,” he said early this morning, even though the prospect of that happening appeared increasingly unlikely.

You might think he’s a phony or that his policies would wreck the country. You might think they’re exactly what the country needs. But either way, you have to acknowledge that he’s much more about process, and he’s much less of a firebrand, much less about inspiration and more about grinding it out. If he actually wins, I can guarantee we’ll all quickly grow weary of stories about grinding it out in Scranton. If you voted for him, you know this, too.

Every person has his pluses and minuses, and voters knew all that about these two men going into the polls. Whichever one of them wins, the system will have worked as it was designed to work, and there will be a president inaugurated in a couple of months.

And then we’ll have four years of the national conversation being led by that flawed human being, whichever one. Either the process-oriented grinder, not exactly inspiring, or the bully/liar/conspiracy theorist. There’s a big difference, of course, but either way we’ll still go on arguing with each other.

That’s as it should be. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s better than anything else anybody has ever come up with.

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