Does it matter whether President Obama is re-elected, or Gov. Romney is elected President? Does it matter whether the Democrats or the Republicans control Congress? The obvious answer is, “yes.”

Some political experts say that the 2012 election is one of the most important elections in a long time because of the profound differences between the two political parties and their presidential candidates; a lot is at stake this year, they say.

Democrats emphasize a caring community. Republicans emphasize individual rights and responsibilities. (Ideally, there ought to be a balance between a caring community and rugged individualism.)

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have strong disagreements about the role of government, health care, budget and taxes, job creation, Medicare and Social Security, foreign policy, energy and the environment, climate change, immigration, abortion and homosexuality.

The less obvious and possibly more correct answer to the question is, “no”, it does not make much difference who wins the election. If we continue to play the blame game (growth begins where blaming ends), if we continue to elect people who put partisan or selfish interests ahead of the national interest, the results of the 2012 election won’t matter.

If our elected representatives continue to insist that it’s “my way or the highway”, and “all or nothing at all,” if obstructionism and gridlock continue in Washington, then nobody won the election, and the American people will be the losers.

The problems facing our nation are not just political: They also have a moral or spiritual dimension.

Most Americans are decent, law-abiding people. But with all the violence, greed, dishonesty, fear, anger and hatred around us, who can deny the existence of evil in our society?

The Biblical authors knew about both individual evil and institutional evil.

Evil is present whenever families, churches, communities and nations are dysfunctional and divided.

Most religious people believe that these things are the work of the devil who acts through temptation.

God is the opposite of these evils: God is love not hate, truth not falsehood, a uniter not a divider.

There is a saying that, “The truth is the first casualty of war.”

Has the truth become the first casualty of politics too? We must reaffirm that there is such a thing as “the truth,” and there are such things as “lies.”

People usually know when they are telling a lie – except when they repeat something they are told is true. Such people are less culpable than those who know they are lying, but they are culpable for not trying to verify the facts before they repeat them. Unverified facts are merely gossip, and gossip is a serious sin going back to the Hebrew Bible.

We should insist that all individuals and groups operating in the political arena tell the truth.

The comic strip character, Pogo, once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” And, Mahatma Gandhi said: “We (each of us) must become the change we want to see (in our society).” Ordinary people need to be virtuous, informed citizens. Conflicts based on differing political values are inevitable. Whenever these conflicts arise, we should have an honest, open dialogue to reconcile our differences. Likewise, our political leaders need to communicate, cooperate and compromise.

Democracy requires a compromising mindset – a willingness to sacrifice some principles in order to conduct our nation’s affairs.

The Founding Fathers gave us a good example of a compromising mindset.

As conservative columnist David Brooks recently wrote, the next president (and Congress) must accomplish three big things: increase growth, reduce the debt, and increase social equity.

This means creating jobs (e.g., rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure), balancing the budget (e.g., cutting spending and increasing some taxes), and strengthening the middle-class (economic fairness and equal opportunity for all).

It will be no easy task for whomever is elected.

But, it will be a whole lot easier if we, the people, truly come together after this election and demand that our elected representatives compromise to solve our nation’s problems.

Anthony DiStefano, of Aiken, spent 29 years in state and federal government including with the Ohio General Assembly, the U.S. House of Representatives and the federal government.