In Tuesday's aftermath, many students on Dartmouth's predominantly liberal campus have expressed anger and disappointment at the defeat of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and the re-election of President Bush. This paper endorsed the senator for his superior qualifications and platform, yet now that the polls have closed, it is time to take a long, thoughtful look at the next four years.
This week, unlike four years ago, the president won both the Electoral College and the popular vote. To lead the nation as a whole, though, the president cannot turn his back to the overwhelmingly moderate middle. He may have won by appealing to society's more conservative and hawkish elements, but he needs to govern now through consensus building.
Consensus building, though, is a two-way street. While Democrats as well as Republicans have already begun preparing for the 2008 election, the next four years cannot only function as a period for disillusioned liberals and moderates to "muddle through." Just as Bush must not ignore the 49 percent of voters who cast ballots against him, his many millions of supporters must not take his re-election as an excuse to turn their backs on government for the next four years.
The race has evidently inspired passion among students and the electorate as a whole. Let us channel that passion into progress -- through constant, intellectually stimulating debate. For both sides, the time of placards and angry chants has passed, and if we replace them with coherent debate and exchange of ideas, democracy stands to benefit. It's still time to change minds, but with calm discussion and rational thought, not with TV ads and bumper stickers.
There's no other conceivable way to solve our nation's serious social problems, to extricate ourselves from the Iraq quagmire and to bridge our painful and growing political divide.