Our essays about the 2004 election, “A Gathering Swarm” by Todd Gitlin and “Life of the Party” by Michael Kazin, inspired a flood of letters from across the political spectrum. Read more of this debate here.

You’re right—there was a gathering swarm of left-leaners that got involved. But even more Republicans got off their duffs as well. I should know—I got off mine and volunteered in a campaign for the first time. In Ohio, for George Bush.

Libs act like there’s some small tweak to be made on cultural issues and that liberals’ views on the environment and the economy are a unique moral stance, as if conservatives actually favor pollution and poverty. People aren’t convinced your solutions to these problems or your values on them are any better than Republicans’.

Dayton, Ohio

Yes, the left must grow beyond a politics of protest to one of power (Gitlin). Yes, a shell party for candidates and their professionals loses to Republicans, while a people’s party could win (Kazin). But forget the Democrats, who supported the racist, destructive “war on drugs”; torpedoed the Kyoto Protocol before Bush sank it; failed to rally people against the 2000 and 2004 electoral outrages; confirmed Ashcroft; supported the Patriot Act and the terrible attacks on the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq; and let Kerry promise to out-Bush Bush in waging war in Iraq and on terrorism. Your writers’ insights should help build a new party, not feed a dream of turning a leaden one into gold.

Alameda, California

Kazin’s thoughtful piece dares to suggest that the left is what the right keeps saying it is: elitists who turn their noses up at “red America.” It is the first article I’ve read by a liberal that suggests looking inward for what the Democrats stand for, and be that. If you’re a party that supports homosexual rights, then stand up proudly and say it. If you’re a party that does not want to be religious, but embraces a secular philosophy, then advocate that.

Glendale, California

The Democratic Party needs to find a spiritual base that it can hold passionately and that brings people together. The Democrats’ relation to rural people over the last few decades has shown a failure of political judgment. They terrify the rural poor with the prospect of their annihilation by government meddling. Environmental regulations must be applied differently to multimillion-dollar corporations than to the family in the tar-paper shack. Gun control is another disaster. The gun is the last-ditch guarantor of freedom and self-direction for the rural poor. Liberalism has become a preoccupation of the educated, well-to-do middle class. The Democratic Party must stand up for those whose meaning in life does not revolve around the acquisition of money and power. Here the party has failed the rural poor, of which I am a member.

I’d like to think my letter might get a reply, but I am virtually certain it won’t. If I had written to a group in the Christian right I would certainly get a reply. Therein lies the problem.

Surry, Maine

That Todd Gitlin considers the 2004 get-out-the-vote effort by a coalition of old and new activists a “movement” is a sad example of the anemia and distorted vision of the so-called “left.”

If, after the fraudulent vote count and Kerry’s quick capitulation, that amalgam of campaign workers had taken to the streets—as in Kiev—and shut down the government until democracy was restored, then it would have been a popular movement. Instead, it was but a failed campaign, and the two-corporatist-party monopoly is the problem, not the solution.

Granville, Vermont

If, as you say in the Editors’ Note, the truth is that Bush won, show your readers. We trust you. Weren’t you the ones who put us on our guard in the first place that our elections could be stolen by the likes of Diebold? Hasn’t Mother Jones demonstrated how easily our government can orchestrate sham elections and tout illegitimate results in other nations like Azerbaijan? If you are asking me to accept the truth, you must first demonstrate it.

Atlanta, Georgia

Licensed to Bill

“The Spy Who Billed Me” by Tim Shorrock was frightening. That highly sensitive intelligence work should be placed in the hands of private firms is untenable. We already have contractors involved in deaths and torture in Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and Abu Ghraib. We don’t need intelligence agents who owe their allegiance to the company employing them.

Williston, Florida

Catering to Excess

In “For Richer or Poorer,” MoJo reports that the average cost of an American wedding is $22,360. Having been to more than a few weddings lately, most of which appeared to be modest affairs, I checked your source—the readers of Bride magazine. That figure is probably a gross overestimate as that magazine’s advertisers want to convince readers that over-the-top expenditures are the norm. I doubt the average cash-strapped U.S. family spends three-quarters of a year’s income on a wedding.

Berkeley, California