At long last, the presidential primary season is over and the nominees of the respective parties can focus on convincing the voters that they are better qualified or better suited to lead America for the next four years.

Let the voters beware. This will be a nasty election where sorting fact from fiction will require diligence.

This is not a situation unique to the Republicans or the Democrats. Sadly, the new model for getting elected is the assassination of the character of the other candidate. We’re not talking about exaggeration or hyperbole, but rather deliberate campaigns aimed at ruining the reputations of our potential presidents.

The meanness is driven all the faster by bloggers, columnists and shadow groups that exist on the Internet for the specific purpose of confusing voters with disinformation. Thus, one will find e-mails declaring that Democratic nominee apparent Sen. Barack Obama is a Muslim, that he took the oath of office with his hand not on a Bible, but on a copy of the Quran, that he is closely associated with terrorist groups. We can expect similar propaganda aimed at discrediting Sen. John McCain.

Those attempts have lives of their own outside the campaigns of the candidates. While it is likely that the two campaigns will engage in “spinning” information to suit their needs, thousands of partisans with little or even no direct link to the candidates will churn out totally fabricated documents, stories, photographs and allegations attempting to control your vote.

The campaign will last a long five months. By the time it is over, a monarchy may seem preferable to the American election process. Every attempt will be made to sway your vote, to manipulate your thoughts, to direct your action. The only way our Democracy can survive is if voters reject the politics of character assassination and make informed decisions based on a candidate’s real record, his public statements and his ideas on willingness to address the huge challenges of our time, from global warming to the economy to, most importantly, the war in Iraq. Don’t let the lies, innuendos and distortions guide your decision-making process. Don’t be complicit in the destruction of this democracy.

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