As the Republican presidential primaries kick into high gear and the nation — or that fraction of it that pays attention to politics, anyway — prepares for the 2012 elections, it is perhaps instructive to reflect on just how lucky Americans are.

As the Republican presidential primaries kick into high gear and the nation — or that fraction of it that pays attention to politics, anyway — prepares for the 2012 elections, it is perhaps instructive to reflect on just how lucky Americans are.

Lucky not only in the sense that we get to cast votes for the men and women who represent us; and lucky not only when our horse comes in first –– Democrats can count the election of George W. Bush in 2000 as among their political blessings, and Republicans can do likewise regarding the 2008 election of Barack Obama.

We are a nation that has seen its top leaders elected for more than 220 years. We may not have liked the candidate who got the most votes, but we have long been the beneficiaries of peaceful transitions of power. And that's an amazing thing, even in this day and age, as events in northern Africa last week reminded us.

It did not end well for former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, as it has not ended well for many a malicious –– and, sometimes, benign –– leader. Video shows the former strongman being harassed and roughly handled by rebel forces in what were evidently his final moments.

One thinks of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein swapping “go to hell” statements with those taunting him on the way to the scaffold in December 2006. Photos showing the bloody and misshapen head of Gadhafi brought to mind the last images of Benito Mussolini, the former Italian dictator whose body was dumped in a public square after his execution, to be kicked, spat upon and hung by a meat hook.

Public reveling in the demise of Gadhafi continues. As of this writing, the Associated Press reports, “Gadhafi’s blood-streaked body has been put on display in a commercial freezer at a shopping center in Misrata as Libyan authorities argued about where to bury the remains.”

Bodily remains on display — not so different than the guillotined head of France's King Louis XVI being hoisted before the cheering crowd during the Terror in 1793.

And yet, even before Louis trudged resignedly to his fate that January day, the young United States had peacefully placed in office President George Washington. Within five years, it would transfer power, again peacefully, to a new president: John Adams. Before another five years were out, it would transfer power to a new party, Federalist Adams losing to Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson. Thus has it been in the United States since.

There have been unforeseen complications –– it took 36 ballots and some backroom finagling before Jefferson, who had tied Aaron Burr with 73 electoral votes, was elected president by the House of Representatives. The 12th Amendment, passed in 1804, ironed out this constitutional wrinkle.

There have been idiosyncrasies. Incumbent Grover Cleveland lost the electoral vote in 1888, even though he won the popular vote. He would be reelected in 1892, becoming the only two-term president to serve non-successive terms, as well as the only presidential candidate other than Franklin Roosevelt to win three straight popular votes.

There has also been drama –– e.g. Bush vs. Gore in 2000.

But there has never been revolution. As dark a period as was the Civil War, it was not a coup; it was an attempt at succession.

So when the ballots are counted next Nov. 6, we would do well to remember that, less important than the number of red states or blue states is the fact that, ultimately –– sometimes inexplicably –– but always gloriously, all states join together as the red, white and blue.

Kevin Frisch’s column, Funny Thing ..., appears each Sunday in the Canandaigua Daily Messenger in New York. Contact him at kfrisch@messengerpostmedia.com.