As a voting member of the Catholic left, I am enormously frustrated with the Democratic Party. I agree with E.J. Dionne Jr. [op-ed, Nov. 5] that to "pepper their speeches with prayers and a few more 'God bless you's' " is an insufficient strategy. But I also think that "a sustained and intellectually serious effort . . . to insist that social justice and inclusion are 'moral values' and that war and peace are 'life issues,' " though laudable, still underestimates the nature of the party's problem.

It's not just that Democrats don't portray their moral issues as moral enough; it's that they disregard the moral sophistication and complex- ity of other positions. The party needs, for example, to come up with a more sophisticated way of understanding wariness about embryonic stem cell research. It is not opposition to science.

I would feel more comfortable voting Democratic in national races if the Democrats would at least allow a pro-life lobby as lively as the pro-choice lobby tolerated by the Republicans.

DAVID J. COLLINS JR.

Washington

*

It's painful to read that Democrats in Congress are fretting about whether to "seek common ground with Bush or to be implacable in opposition" [front page, Nov. 6].

I have another solution: lead. The dictionary definition of the word is "to show the way by going in advance." Now more than ever, Democrats in Congress need to:

* Develop their own fiscally responsible budget solutions to counteract the irresponsible tax cuts.

* Demand a full congressional investigation into the Abu Ghraib prison scandal to remove its stain on America's reputation and to ensure the elimination of such behavior.

* Create environmental, energy and transportation policies to steer us toward oil independence and cleaner air.

* Take control of the health care debate by moving ahead with a bipartisan effort to implement Sen. John F. Kerry's plan -- one already supported by many Republicans.

While Democrats may not be in the majority, the first step toward regaining that position is to offer voters some substantive reasons for giving the Democratic Party a second look.

DONNA L. ARBOGAST

Crofton