THE 1988 United States presidential campaign is over. Let us all be thankful that beginning today we have respite from the daily round of abuse and counterabuse which has been the American lot since the campaign opened.
And let us all, no matter what our individual leanings during the campaign, take comfort from the fact that the American Republic is not going to be seriously damaged by the results of today's voting.
No matter which side wins, there is no great change in either domestic or foreign policy in the American future.
Both candidates approve of the new relationship Ronald Reagan has forged with the Soviet Union. It will go forward regardless of the outcome.
Both favor the NATO alliance, which has been the centerpiece of bipartisan foreign policy for a generation. It will be preserved as a balance to the new Soviet relationship.
In domestic affairs both presidential candidates favor keeping the essential features of the federal system of welfare which has grown up in the United States beginning with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Both favor keeping social security intact. Both favor keeping such key programs as unemployment compensation. Both favor civil rights and equal opportunity and better education.
Both also favor an addition in the form of some kind of federal program for day care.
Neither candidate wants to upset or change radically the main features of either foreign or domestic policy. Both are, no matter what was said during the campaign, men of the moderate center. There are differences, yes. But in the main they are differences of degree, not in basic policy or direction.
The outcome can make a minor difference in spending on weapons. A victory for George Bush probably means more defense spending than would a victory for Michael Dukakis, if only because the defense industry has been more generous with campaign contributions to Republicans. The Democrats are as committed to a ``strong defense,'' but would be more selective.
There will be a difference in the approach to what Mr. Reagan euphemistically (sugar coating) calls ``revenue enhancement.'' There will, of course, be federal ``revenue enhancement,'' no matter which man wins today.
A Dukakis victory would lead to an attempt to raise more money by the graduated income tax route, which falls more heavily on the upper economic classes. Under a Bush presidency the search would be directed to such devices as increased sales taxes. Bush advisers have been looking longingly at the value-added tax (VAT), which has been so helpful to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
A Dukakis win would probably mean more vigorous enforcement of civil rights legislation. A Bush victory would mean a continuation of the kind of minimum enforcement that had characterized the Reagan approach to policies designed to help the black community. The blacks actually have reason to think that they would benefit, marginally, from a Dukakis victory. But even here the difference would be marginal, not major.
This has not been a watershed election at a watershed moment in American history. The broad direction of policy is not going to change. There will be no major new initiatives in national policy or direction unless or until the winner, whichever he is, has to confront the economic consequences of the vast Reagan deficit.
In other words, the Great Republic is not going to shift course tomorrow, or next month, or probably next year because of today's voting.
If your side lost, relax. No dire disaster lies just ahead.