Hello, Dixville Notch! I love you. Not because you are the earliest voting and earliest reporting polling station in the U.S., although you are that. Not because you are an election-year icon and all the media newshounds dutifully show up there at midnight on Election Day to record all 10 of your registered voters as they solemnly (and perhaps, not so solemnly) line up to cast their ballots — although that is also true.
I love you because you remind all of us, Republicans and Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, Constitutionalists, Socialists, Communists, Whigs and whatever else we are, that — come Wednesday morning, we are still going to be Americans.
Think about it.
The five Romney voters and the five Obama voters in Dixville Notch all know each other intimately and see each other nearly every day of the week. Some of them are married to each other or otherwise related. They work together, worship together, have to live with each other and deal together all the other days of every election cycle as normal human beings. They have to get along with each other.
So do we all.
There are three possible outcomes for today's voting:
1. The president is re-elected with enough of a democratic majority/plurality in both houses of Congress to get actual work done. In this case, Democrats will shout "Hallelujah!" and go back to our eternal internecine arguments over just how left is left enough. President Obama will seek the center of most of the issues and some of us will be disappointed but almost everyone — Republican or Dmocrat — will be OK with the way things eventually turn out.
2. The president is re-elected without a democratic majority — as is the present case — in which it is incumbent upon all senators and congresspersons to act like adults and learn the difference between campaigning and governing. And it is incumbent upon all of us as U.S. citizens to make sure they do that. We've all clearly had enough of the obstruction, ugliness, and frustration of the past four years.
3. Mitt Romney is elected president with a mixed bag in Congress — in which case, see above.
4. Mitt Romney is elected president with enough of a Republican majority/plurality to do as he pleases — in which case, I will take a deep breath and give him the benefit of the doubt, which any president deserves. I recommend this course of action for everyone who didn't cast a Republican ballot. After all, as heinous as Richard M. Nixon's personal political ethics turned out to be, he accomplished some great things on behalf of the country.
Wednesday morning — or whenever the last votes are counted, re-counted, certified, reported, and the election is finally called — we will all still be citizens of the same country and we have responsibilities to each other to fulfill. Those of us for whom this election isn't our first rodeo need to model some good citizenship for those of us who have yet to understand that elections are not actual battles.
Our citizenship — naturalized or birthright — requires of all of us that we shake hands and behave ourselves in a civil manner, now. We may voice displeasure with our government officials, their actions and policies, and we may gather peacefully in protest to demand redress of grievance, but we may not incite mayhem and violence.