Bipartisan Appointments

I read somewhere that Sen. John F. Kerry had planned to appoint a few Republicans to Cabinet or other high-level positions within his administration if he had been elected president. If President Bush would appoint a few Democrats to some of these positions, I feel that would be one way to help bridge the divisiveness and bring the country together.

Dawn Lawson


Religion in Politics

This election may have been much ado about the religious right, but it certainly was not about Christianity.

It is so much easier to get all cranked up about what those "other" folks are doing wrong. If we can point out that all those "other" people are having abortions and homosexual marriages and say "that's wrong," and then wrap it up in religion and vote on it, we think then we can feel right, even righteous. And we so desperately want to feel that!

But Jesus was all about checking for the log in our own eye before worrying about the speck in someone else's eye (Matthew 7:3). If we took all the time and energy and money we have spent on those issues and put it into fixing joblessness and homelessness, well, maybe then we could feel better about ourselves as a country.

Gayle Schlenker


Bush's Majority

Having been on the losing side of elections won by the scurrilous tactics of lying Democrats, I feel the pain -- really -- of Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne and others who, having lost the use of the pejorative "President-Select," now must fall back on insisting that President Bush hasn't received a mandate ["(Mandate) . . . He Didn't Get," op-ed, Nov. 5]. By all means, Democrats should organize, but they should keep in mind that it is an utter cliche of American politics for the winners to say "mandate" and the losers "no mandate." The president got over 50 percent of the vote, something that Bill Clinton never managed. Come to think of it, no Democrat has won a majority of the vote since Jimmy Carter in 1976 (50.1 percent). Even with a lead in the popular vote, Al Gore only managed 48.4.

Niel Wright


The President's Demeanor

My heart fell upon reading the fourth paragraph of Post staff writer Mike Allen's report, "Confident Bush Vows to Move Aggressively; Second-Term Agenda Includes Social Security, Tax Code," [A1, Nov. 5] It states: "In both words and tone, Bush conveyed exceptional self-assurance as he jauntily parried with reporters and served notice that he expects Congress to move with dispatch on his agenda. The message was unmistakable: that Bush intends to be the capital's dominant political and policy force, and that the election returns mean that other players should move to accommodate his priorities, not simply meet in the middle."

This is the demeanor I've witnessed the last three-plus years. There isn't anything compassionate or unifying about this administration. My copy of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines dictatorial as "oppressive or arrogantly overbearing toward others." President Bush has had and apparently will increase his dictatorial approach toward governing. He doesn't emulate prior presidents in this regard, regardless of party affiliation. Is this how we hope to spread freedom and democracy around the world? What happens to those of us in the 48 percent who don't accommodate his priorities? Will we be silenced as traitors or applauded for exercising our basic American right to openly disagree with current administrative policies?

I voted for a Kerry administration that would have worked to repair the domestic and foreign diplomatic damage done thus far. Mr. Kerry and his staff would have restored a sense that Americans do not have to agree to "my way or the highway" to be declared patriotic.

Elizabeth Z. Snyder


Finding Common Ground

My 11-year-old son and I came prepared for the long lines. What took us by surprise were the familiar faces on both sides of the campaign.

Outside the suburban elementary school where I'm registered to vote, we found a neighbor from our church manning the Democrats' table, handing out sample ballots. A few steps up the sidewalk was a good friend from the neighborhood swim team doing the same for the Republicans.

Anybody who lives in suburbia knows that that's a huge chunk of your summer weekends right there. Swim meets take up many Saturday mornings, and it's church on Sundays.

With our country more polarized and broken along political and cultural lines than ever before, the search for common ground and mutual respect will need to begin at the grass roots. The party operatives loved to pat themselves on the back, detailing how they got out the vote in this district and that. How they were so tapped in to how Americans felt. What was really important to us.

If we believe the pollsters, we're nothing more than two nations living within the confines of one. For those on either coast, we're told, the war in Iraq and the economy are the primary concerns. For those in the ever-burgeoning heartland, the talk is of moral issues.

But the politicians and their machines are gone now. In many cases, they have left a scorched-earth policy in their wake. That means the difficult chore is up to us. We've been categorized as being in the red or blue camp.

Still, if this nation is going to move ahead it will need to be done neighbor to neighbor, American to American.

Democratic challenger John F. Kerry and President Bush hinted at what kind of predicament they had left us in with their negative campaign advertising when they addressed the nation after the race in Ohio was decided.

In his concession speech, Kerry said he and the president had "talked about the danger of division in our country and the need, the desperate need for unity."

The president told Kerry supporters, "To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support, and I will work to earn it."

While those are sweet-sounding words, they don't reflect how business is currently done in Washington. Except for a few select issues, bipartisanship rarely exists. Neither does patience or respect for what the other side has to say or what it stands for.

Growing up, my grandfather and I constantly disagreed about politics. We debated everything from the war in Vietnam to the entry of women into the workplace. For I came of age in the 1960s, a tumultuous era that my children seem destined to repeat.

We argued about so much and often ended up canceling each other out at the polls, but we still found it in our hearts to listen. We remained genuinely curious about each other's views. We tried hard not to be dismissive of the other. What we enjoyed was a dialogue, granted heated at times, but one in which we both learned a great deal about the other and about ourselves. I wish my grandfather were still alive. I'd love to hear what he thinks of our red-blue nation.

In a perfect world, someone would rise up in Washington or elsewhere and unite us. Have the courage to reach across the aisle. While there are plenty of hopefuls on the horizon for the next presidential election -- McCain, Edwards, Giuliani, perhaps another Clinton, another Bush -- I don't think any of them could bring us together. No, for now, that burden will need to be taken up by us. The healing will need to begin at home.

At my son's bus stop, we've been polite with each other since the election.

After all, we're split about equally between Democrat and Republican. We've joked about the networks' Election 2004 sets.

Still, we know that too soon such divisive issues as abortion, reinstatement of the draft and prayers in the schools could well come tumbling our way. How well we can talk and listen about such initiatives will go a long way toward deciding how long our national divide remains so deep and so wide.

Tim Wendel


A Pleasant Day at the Polls

My first-time experience as an election officer Nov. 2 was educational and enjoyable. As I expected, my precinct's paperwork was organized, my co-workers were competent, upbeat and polite, and voters were plentiful and patient.

Only a few voters were turned away; several were redirected to another precinct. I remember only one man who was not registered and not allowed to vote. More surprising to me were the people who were registered and did vote.Several voters had such limited skill in English they could not understand instructions for using the voting machines, nor read the ballot. Many voters were in the booth for extended periods because they were unprepared to decide on the two state constitutional amendments and four county bonds.

On the positive side, the vast majority of voters found the touch-screen machines easy to use. Even elderly voters who were generally less computer-savvy found the machines user-friendly. The printed voter rolls we received from Fairfax County were accurate and carefully annotated. The hand-held computer we were provided was useful in resolving questions about which precincts voters were registered in. Our page (a senior in high school) was energetic, entertaining and busy all day.

Most heartening of all was the genuine gratitude voters expressed to poll workers for our service; many voters thanked us for volunteering. All the brochures advertising election officer jobs were gone at the end of the day. I hope that means more citizens will join me working at the polls next time.

Patricia Church


At Greenbriar West Elementary School on Election Day, clockwise from far left: Debra Popoli, front, and Julia Mathews look at sample ballots while they wait to vote; election officers Lourdes Berkeley, left, and Mary Monk check voter information; Kelly Jamison shows daughter Sarah, 4, a sample ballot.