- So it's over - a presidential election campaign that many Americans say was one of the dirtiest and most negative in history.
Maybe it was. But no matter how weird and extravagant the process by which Americans choose their leader may seem, much of the world still views it as a better system than its own.Two cheers for democracy.
George Bush and Michael Dukakis attacked each other unmercifully with sharp rhetoric, but there are no death squads around to hound the opposition now it's over.
"I don't care what Bush says about Dukakis or Dukakis says about Bush, after a week everyone forgets it," said Ennio Marquez from El Salvador. "In my country, you say something about someone who has friends in the military, you have big, big problems."
There was talk about how technicians could theoretically tamper with the computers which counted 60 percent of the votes cast, but the large-scale election fraud taken for granted in many countries was absent.
"This is a good system," said A.S. Gandhi, a businessman from Calcutta. "In India, you turn up at a polling station and they will tell you that your vote has already been cast for you."
Some American voters complained that a Bush-Dukakis race was not much of a choice, but at least those who bothered to vote on Tuesday had a choice of some sort. Many millions around the world do not.
Washington taxi driver Shira Egal said his father was a Somalian politician who has been in jail since a coup in 1969.
Now a U.S. citizen, Egal said he planned to vote for Dukakis and wanted to see American-style democracy introduced in his own country some day.
"It's silly in some ways, but I say give people a chance to choose who they want," he said.
Many Americans grumble about the campaign "silliness," the circus atmosphere, the length, the stress on what many see as irrelevancies.
But there are those who positively relish the circus atmosphere.
Journalists who have trailed around the country with the candidates over the past years may have difficulty re-adjusting to life without the exhilarating adrenalin "fixes" that make the horrors of the campaign trail worth bearing.
Many political scientists, too, will no doubt look back on 1988 with nostalgia.
"I like the American system," said Japanese political scientist Katsuro Sakoh. "It's almost like a festival with lots of intellectual stimulation. It's like a variety show, and I like that very much."
"This system is more colorful, more picturesque and less corrupt than the Japanese system," said Sakoh, a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.
"But the Americans spend lots of money on media, while the Japanese spend lots of money on politicians. I don't know which is the more productive way to spend money," he added.