Now that it looks as though President Bush has been reelected, I have questions about how his platform will be implemented. As a Republican, I wonder what Mr. Bush's next term will mean for divisive social issues such as gay marriage and abortion rights.
Deep divisions exist across the country concerning these issues that affect so many people personally. Such a close race signifies that the country is not ready for far-reaching legislative changes. I hope the president recognizes this.
On Tuesday an estimated 120 million Americans, believed to be the highest percentage turnout of people eligible to vote in an election since 1968, went to the polls, resulting in a majority of 3.5 million votes for President Bush. I hope this finally disproves the claim of liberals that they would prevail if only more Americans would vote.
This election was traumatic for many of us. I am scared, and it is the Bush administration that scares me.
It is not policies arising from legitimate political decisions, such as tax cuts, that are my concern. What terrifies me is the administration's manipulation of fear. It polarizes us and threatens to strip away and abuse the very democracy for which our soldiers are fighting and dying abroad.
Much like Sept. 11, Tuesday's victory offers a tremendous opportunity to unite us. I pray that the administration gives up the secrecy of the past four years, honors due process and welcomes dissenting views as a way of improving its policies. I hope that the administration finds out how the United States ended up torturing and humiliating detainees and will punish those responsible for this culture of abuse.
The administration's attitude and actions will determine if we can reunite. This could be President Bush's greatest legacy.
Sebastian Mallaby's Nov. 1 op-ed column was a call to appease Europe on climate change. This was a case for Sen. John F. Kerry's election and for a gain by Democrats in the Senate, which has to ratify any climate treaty.
On Tuesday Americans rejected appeasement and actions that would suppress energy use, drive energy prices higher and kill job creation. They have made it clear that radical and incoherent actions are the wrong way to address the risk of climate change.
Europeans, and Mr. Mallaby, would do well to heed this message from the voting booth.
Providence Forge, Va.
I have voted in every presidential election since 1956, and each time I was able to be philosophical, whether or not I had voted for the winner. Not this year.
It has become standard election strategy procedure not just to denigrate the opposing candidate but to set groups of voters against each other by capitalizing on their fears, prejudices and religious beliefs.
One reporter commented that the gay-marriage issue was a strong influence on voting in many states because of the importance of "family values" in the election. Whatever became of honesty, integrity, humility, tolerance, unselfishness and love? These are the "family values" on which I was raised.
My attitude today is like the show title "Stop the World -- I Want to Get Off." My survival strategy will be to avoid the news and focus on my own intimate circle, working on my needlepoint, spoiling my granddaughter and petting my dogs.
I fervently hope that the next four years will be good for the country, although I am not optimistic.
This election should be a wake-up call for Democrats:
* Sen. John F. Kerry made a valiant effort but lost.
* The Senate minority leader lost in South Dakota.
* The Republican advantage in the Senate increased by four seats.
* The South is in Republican hands.
Democrats need to take some clues from the Republican Party, which has been able to put out a consistent message that appeals to the majority of Americans.
The Democratic Party must do a better job reaching out to minorities, the poor and new immigrants. It better get started.
I have a John Kerry sign in my yard and an ABB -- Anybody But Bush -- sticker on my car. I had been waiting for this Election Day since December 2000, so of course I woke up Wednesday feeling pretty depressed and have spent most of the day commiserating with my fellow ABBers, thinking and talking about all of the terrible things that are bound to happen over the next four years and about how my children will suffer in the long run.
And then I read Marjorie Williams's Nov. 3 op-ed column, "The Halloween of My Dreams," and felt very small in my "grief." It brought this election into perspective for me and, I hope, for many other Kerry supporters.
Thank you, Ms. Williams, for having the courage to write that column. I sincerely hope you will become that 52-year-old mother.
DIANA VASILAKIS CROSS
Regarding Anne Applebaum's Nov. 3 op-ed column, "Accept the Verdict": This was not an election for the local PTA. This was the election to decide how we would conduct ourselves in the world and in our country. This election was about war and terrorism, the environment, health care, the USA Patriot Act and civil liberties.
Ms. Applebaum said that numbers alone do not confer political legitimacy, that the process does, including turning out to vote. I remember people forced to stand in line in the former Soviet Union to vote so that they could confer "legitimacy" on the state-run election.
But Ms. Applebaum's scariest position was that the best outcome was for the "apparent" loser to concede and for the nation to "quickly" unite behind whoever "seems" to have won. Is expediency more important than legitimacy?
This election has frightened me, but Ms. Applebaum's willingness to yield without being sure of the results was even more frightening.
Sen. John F. Kerry is not the only one who ended up on the short end of this election. The exit pollsters also lost. Their early reports turned out to be wrong about who was getting which votes, and that their findings were then leaked makes me question whether such intrusions on the balloting process should be allowed at all.
States exclude outsiders from the voting booths proper. Maybe they should draw a circle a quarter-mile around the polls and make it a dead zone for pollsters.
SAM A. BACHARACH
Americans need to bring about changes to improve our political process in the next two years. These changes include involving all candidates in political debates, ending public financing of campaigns and removing obstructions to voting.
I encourage citizens to educate their communities regarding these improvements.