We are approaching an election of great import. We are a nation at war, and we face grave external threats. We are buffeted by serious challenges at home that include healthcare, education, our increasing inability to live within our means and the coarsening of our culture. We will expect the next President to address all these problems as well as determine the course of American freedom through significant appointments to the federal judiciary and within the Executive. Much is at stake.

At the same time, we have never conducted a presidential canvass like this before, with so many candidates, with so much money and media attention on this scale so early in the election cycle. Therefore, there are no historical parallels. There are no compelling models (at least not during the primary season).

What should we expect? My mantra: Nobody knows anything.

Having said that, I am optimistic. I am confident that the American people are up to the duty of selecting the next chief executive. Moreover, I am convinced that the next president (whom ever he or she may prove to be) will be up to the difficult task.

Regardless of who wins the coming election, approximately half the nation, in varying degrees of vehemence, will greet the next president with disdain. However, that person will undoubtedly be a dedicated public servant who wants America to prosper and succeed. The burdensome office will test, torment and age the 44th President of the United States, but the sacred obligation will also summon the total of that individualís inner strength and the best elements of his or her personality to meet the awesome challenges of the post.

More importantly, our nation has the innate capacity to overcome the limitations of our individual leaders. Writing in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville observed: "the great advantage of the Americans consists in their [ability] to commit faults which they may afterwards repair." As a corollary, he wrote: "American democracy frequently errs in the choice of the individuals to whom it entrusts the power of the administration; but...the state prospers under their rule."

Why does American democracy prosper in spite of inferior leadership? Tocqueville offered three reasons: 1) the people are vigilant and jealous of their rights; 2) leaders are in power for relatively short periods of time; and, most importantly, 3) the interest of the leaders are more likely to be subsumed in the interest of the people.

While aristocratic (or elite) "magistrates" might offer more sterling talents and virtues individually, there is "a secret tendency in democratic institutions that [works toward the good] of the community in spite of their vices and mistakes." Ironically, Tocqueville argues, "in aristocratic governments public men may frequently do harm without intending it; and in democratic states they bring about good results of which they have never thought."

In truth, political passions tend to blind us to the good in American public servants. Looking back over American history, we do not see a pattern of good versus evil. While the battles between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson were cast in those Manichean partisan terms during their own day, we now see that both Hamilton and Jefferson were earnest and self-sacrificing in their love of country; more importantly, they both proved essential to our corporate success.

The same can be said for Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay or William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan. This is a recurring theme in our national narrative.

My prediction for 2008 (with one caveat): As long as we the people do our job, the system will work and democracy will prevail.