An optimist's guide to the 2016 election

People on both sides of the US presidential election are terrified about the other candidate winning.

Before you freak out, consider a couple of reasons for optimism.

1) World progress goes well beyond politics.

Whatever happens in the US presidential election, the world is improving rapidly.

We’re close to eliminating poverty and most diseases.

War, violence, and bigotry are declining through history.

Environmentalism is on the rise.

Civil rights are on the rise.

Technology is bringing us all kinds of wonders.

Transparency is on the rise.

Education is on the rise.

Liberalism, generally, is on the rise.

It would take a disastrous paradigm shift to stop these big-picture trends.

2) American democracy is pretty effective.

When you ask a diverse group of 220 million people, most of them relatively well-educated, to make a decision, you’ll generally get a decent answer.

Clinton and Trump are both mainstream political candidates. Sure, people on either side hate the other one, and many people are disgusted by both, but that’s a personal problem we would do well to look past.

Both candidates want a safe and strong liberal democracy where everyone gets richer.

One wants to increase regulation, the other wants to decrease it. One wants to increase taxes, the other wants to reduce them. One wants to be more diplomatic, the other wants to be more macho.

Who has a better plan? I know which I prefer, but I recognise the validity of the other.

Take the risk of destroying the world: Clinton fans are terrified of Trump rashly firing off nukes. Trump fans are terrified of Clinton foolishly starting World War III. Those are both viable though unlikely scenarios.

Take taxes: Clinton fans think we should take money from the rich. Trump fans think we should give people more money to spend. Those are both somewhat defensible proposals and neither is likely to ruin the US economy.

Remember that whoever wins the White House will be hamstrung by Congressional gridlock, public opinion, and the threat of impeachment. At worst, that will limit how much good the right candidate can do. At best, it will prevent the wrong candidate from doing too much damage. That’s the beauty of checks and balances.

Meanwhile, states, cities, and corporations can keep working to move in the right direction.

There are certainly risks facing our country, but what matters most is not which of two mainstream candidates are chosen in an election but what trends are emerging over time. In America and on Planet Earth, those trends are pretty good.

This is an editorial. The opinions and conclusions expressed above are those of the author.

NOW WATCH: Animated map shows how drastically split different demographics are this election

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