Finally it's over.

At least until the next election heats up, we will get a respite from mailboxes filled with flyers, endless advertisements demonizing the other side, and social media posts proclaiming one party or one candidate offers the only solution.

The acrimony leading up to Tuesday's midterm elections too often was a function of deliberate oversimplification. Our state and nation face complex problems that are resistant to easy solutions. Simple fixes would already have been accomplished; the low-hanging branches already are bare. The remaining problems are inherently difficult, requiring level-headed input from multiple perspectives.

The intensity of this election was disturbing, but also a good sign.

Americans get worked up because we care. We are passionate in our desire to improve the state and nation. And we believe in democracy. We believe our vote matters not just to short-term outcomes, but to the long-term viability of the American experiment in self-governance.

While passionate advocacy has been an essential element of our nation's greatness, so has the willingness to abide by the decisions of the majority. Every contested race on Tuesday's ballot resulted in winners and losers.

It is incumbent on the winners to accept victory with humility.

The heavier burden is upon losers. They are frustrated today, and the temptation is to reject the system that dismissed their preferences.

But it is the system, far more than particular candidates or issues, that defines our nation. Our representative democracy — to paraphrase Winston Churchill — is the worst form of government except for all the others. It is chaotic and nasty, brutal and inefficient.

For all its rough edges, however, our system of government eventually points us in the right direction. We stumble and backtrack, careen to the left and right, but our nation's history is one of progress.

The losers in Tuesday's election — and most people who voted lost at least one race — need to step back. Beyond the barrage of tribal campaigning, can we see merit in the candidate or position we opposed?

Even if the answer is no, we should respect the system that allowed us to have a voice. Those convinced the election outcome was harmful have time to better articulate their message before the next election.

Our system is built on immense confidence in the citizenry.

We are trusted to both engage in the conflict of campaigns and accept disappointing results with equanimity. We are trusted to express our opinions with energy, but to reserve our greatest loyalty to a democratic process that often rejects our viewpoints.

-- The Decatur (Alabama) Daily 

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