It all comes down to Tuesday.

The year-long tour de force of stump speeches, primaries, promises, debates and conventions.

All the mudslinging, invectives, media circuses, accusations, half-truths, almost-facts and outright lies.

All the straight questions, crooked answers, distortions and illusive five-point plans with only a veneer of substance.

Every election cycle it happens.

And we the people fall for it hook, line and stinker. We get swept up in swift-boating, voter fraud, fact-checking and factual amnesia; statistical manipulation and misrepresentation, emotional appeals and exploitation.

We cling to our favorite media outlet, the one that tells us what we want to hear — not necessarily good things about our candidate, but horrible things about his foe.

We allow journalists to become entertainers and entertainers to become journalists, paying them in ratings, blog hits and book sales.

We watch as ethics-minded news organizations fighting for our right to know the unbiased truth become reality TV competitions in which contestants in the guise of experts chant the same mantra: I didn't come here to make friends, but to get my quarter-hour of fame to convert into book deals, appearance fees and viral videos.

We gleefully latch on to each carefully crafted catchphrase and buzz word: Big Bird, 47%, bayonets, fair share, who built what, the joys of firing people and corporations as people. It's all binders full of malarkey.

We cling to the estimates, studies, research and polls that back what we want to believe, then spit that in the face of any who would oppose such obvious “truth,” all the while ignoring the facts and figures spit back in our face to support the other “truth.”

We argue over wedge issues that are rarely relevant outside of an election year (and never solved), quickly putting them on the back burner come Wednesday.

Our virtual water cooler — Facebook — becomes venom central; a place to voice your opinions and have them slapped down, trampled underfoot; It's target practice for senseless, mean-spirited and unsolvable arguments. Espouse an opinion on one subject and you're categorized, locked in a box and labeled for shipment to an island with the rest of the loonies who believe that.

It's ironic. On Facebook no one sees the faces behind the self-righteous attacks.

Incomprehensible financial figures supporting or debunking one position are thrown around like beach balls at Dodger Stadium — a distraction never landing long enough to matter. All the while, ungodly amounts of money — an estimated $2 billion this year — will be spent on campaigning with little regulation. That's the kind of money that solves a lot of the things we're arguing over, and it is being used to insult, degrade and dehumanize the other guy.

Friends stop calling each other and turn to enemies, forgetting what bound them together in favor of inflicting wounds that may never heal.

We've been kind of horrible to each other lately.

We fall for it every four years. We let the pundits, politicians, spokespeople, tycoons and union bosses spin us up like tops; we're minions doing their bidding by championing their guy over the other one.

Superstorm Sandy offered only momentary reprieve from the animosity, giving us pause and perspective on what's really important — each other — before becoming another weapon to politicize and lay blame.

And on Tuesday we finally get our say. That is, of course, unless an antiquated Electoral College system thinks the majority made the wrong choice. Again.

A “leader” is supposed to rise from these ashes and guide us, united, on his white horse into a bright new future of prosperity, reduced debt, self-sufficiency and human dignity.

Remember dignity?

All so one man can get his page in our history books, his label as the “Most Powerful Man in the World” and pretend to attempt to keep all the promises he made; so he can be the next to inherit a national mess and partake in the endless gridlock of American politics.

This is our country, our right, our system. And our fault.

How can an entire population see the same two people in such diametrically opposing ways? Why does this country hate itself so much?

We let it happen. Win or lose, maybe we all get what we deserve.

PATRICK CANEDAY hopes against hope. Contact him at patrickcaneday@gmail.com. Friend him on Facebook. Read more at www.randomthoughtsonbeinghuman.com.