Congratulations on winning the election, and best wishes for a successful second term.
You won the election by a distinct but small margin, but you did not win a mandate. Parts of our country clearly approve your first-term performance. Other parts clearly disapprove. And in many states, only one or two percentage points separated you and Senator Kerry, which could mean that neither your campaign nor Senator Kerry's captured the hearts and minds of the Americans in the middle. Whether your second term will be considered a success depends not on how you please your most ardent supporters, nor on how you respond to those who most vigorously opposed you, but on how you reach out to the American center: the people who often agree with your principles but are uneasy with how you implement them.
The American in the center might ask you to consider questions like these for your second term:
1. Even as Americans support the war to depose Saddam Hussein, they deplore the loss of American, allied, and civilian lives. Almost one thousand American soldiers, from every part of the country including ours, have died in the war. More than 3,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed by American military action. How will you assure their families, by word and deed, that they died for freedom and not for oil and Halliburton?
2. Voters in eleven states, including ours, rejected gay marriage by substantial majorities. We expressed discomfort with defining marriage to include same-sex couples, but we did not reject their desire -- their need -- to show their commitment to each other when marriage was briefly available to them, and we recognized how much the licenses and the ceremonies meant to them. To borrow a metaphor from the civil rights movement, same-sex couples have stepped onto the bus and want to sit down. If you don't want them on the bus, then you owe it to their parents, brothers, sisters, and children to support an alternative, even if it is the "separate but equal" first-step solution of civil unions. The daughter of your vice president deserves the same choices that are available to your daughters.
3. Your Social Security reform commission advocated letting American workers direct part of their Social Security taxes to investments in mutual funds and indirectly in common stocks. Stocks and mutual funds already form a large part of workers' IRAs, 401(k)s, and other retirement plans. If Social Security trust fund dollars are to be invested in corporate stock, then the federal government must insist on, and enforce, the highest standards of corporate integrity and honesty on the stewards of public corporations. At present that enforcement comes mainly from the office of the New York state attorney general, Eliot Spitzer. Your Justice Department should be protecting America's workers and investors from (in Theodore Roosevelt's famous phrase) the malefactors of great wealth with at least half the vigor that it shows when enforcing the Patriot Act.
4. Foreign terrorist organizations challenge the United States. You've used this challenge to justify holding aliens and some Americans incommunicado without warrant or indictment. The challenge is great, but it is no greater than that faced by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, when the courts nevertheless continued to function and the country held a national election. If you want Iraq to become a republic that protects the basic civil rights of its citizens, and not a place where people disappear without trace at the whim of the government, then you should want America to do the same. Provide the same justice to the prisoners at Guantanamo that you would expect other nations to provide to American citizens.
5. Your party has a long tradition of campaigning for fiscal responsibility and of painting the Democratic Party as the "tax and spend" party. You campaigned on those principles in 2000. You inherited large surpluses from President Clinton. You have converted those surpluses to ballooning deficits, and you support cutting taxes further. How will you return the country to fiscal responsibility?
6. Your "No Child Left Behind" act sets ambitious standards for public schools to meet. Bravo! for forcing schools to set goals. But goals without resources are empty goals. If you cause the federal government to order local schools to spend money to meet your goals, then you should cause the federal government to provide the resources that those schools need. Everyone wants to be the Education President, but so far no one wants to help pay the cost.
Again, best wishes for your second term.