Both political conventions are now history. The polls have narrowed and this nation settles back to observe the once every four years ritual.

What did we learn from this convention?

Well, they told us that both parties believe that the only way to capture the election is to win the center. Republicans put on the face of becoming inclusive, which its critiques said was nothing but a masquerade. I prefer to view it as Sen. John McCain. It's a picture of what we hope the future of the Republican party will be, he declared. The democrats tipped their hats to the political left and renewed their image to a more moderate tone. Both parties declared themselves to be the champion of the middle class family, so that should do well regardless of who wins.

So should God. Indeed, God was more popular than either Reagan or Roosevelt if one measures popularity by the number of times each was mentioned. I sometimes thought I was at a church convention.

The presence of an Orthodox Jew on one ticket gave God a bit more of a liberal hue.

When one stands back a bit from partisan oratory, the importance of both our major political parties becomes quite visible. One is so clearly the party of the status quo where new ideas are resisted until they are widely accepted and where stability is proclaimed as the prime virtue.

The other party is just as clearly the party of challenge-the breaker of new ground and new ideas and it offers to reach out to incorporate the new comer.

It is no surprise that those who have been successful and whose vested interests are served by a minimum of dislocation would come down on the side of stability and slow progress. Nor is it any surprise that the other party, as the incorporator of minorities, was the first to nominate a Roman Catholic, a woman and a Jew.

The nature of a democracy is that it must offer both a point of entry to the nation's power, which is the strength of the democrats, and then as success grows, to watch these people move into the party of the establishment which is the strength of the Republicans. The two together is what makes politics dynamic.

Someone once observed that politics are like underwear, the only way you can keep them clean is to change them regularly. Capitalism is an interesting economic system-to be successful, it must reward both the energy and the entrepreneurial spirit of its people-so incentives are essential.

At the same time, it must also provide a means, so everyone can get on board the system or the ranks of the alienated will finally topple it.

I think I can argue that in the last analysis, the liberals keep capitalism idle, but the conservatives keep it stable.

If this debate, this fall, centers on the desire to change or on the issue of character, Mr. Bush will win. If it centers on the economy or whether the surplus is spent for the benefit of the masses, rather than the few, then Mr. Gore will win.

Since God is quoted freely by both sides, the only sure bet is that God will win.

But if people dared to define exactly what they mean by God, we would have another major debate. Perhaps that one should be saved for the Beliefnet message board.

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