Partisans look to middle ground |

Partisans look to middle ground

Gregory Crofton

The chairman of the El Dorado County Democratic Party worked long hours to make Sen. John Kerry the next president. Now he says he’ll focus on cleaning out his garage.

“You know, something mindless to restore your spirit,” said Joe Pepi, who lives in South Lake Tahoe and worked at a constant clip since April to support the Democratic nominee and get out the vote.

The political campaigns leading up to the election were so divisive in the country and county that candidates’ signs were vandalized and stolen. Pepi said he thinks bridging the gap between the two parties in the aftermath of the election will be difficult.

“California went quite a different way than a lot of the rest of the country and I don’t think people will give up on their issues,” Pepi said. “I guess you can reach out. It’s going to be difficult I think.

“I think people want to be conciliatory in a way, but that’s not Bush’s style either. He said he was a compassionate conservative but moved hard right quickly. And this is his last term. I think he’ll go for broke.”

In making his acceptance speech on Wednesday, the president communicated a different message.

“Today I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent,” Bush said. “To make our nation stronger and better I need your support and I will work to earn it.”

John Stelzmiller, chairman of the El Dorado County Republican Central Committee, said Democrats should have faith in the president’s words.

“It was just an election of ideas and basically a difference of ideas,” said Stelzmiller, who lives on the West Slope. “Obviously there is a mandate, there’s no question about it.

“But it’s just like Bush said, ‘I will ask for your support and I need your support and the country needs to go forward as a unified country.’ He was very clear on that and I think he will reach out and bring in all the elements.”

Eric Herzik, professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Reno, said the sharp divide between Republicans and Democrats is nothing new. The country, he said, is as divided today as it was before the 2000 election.

“A lot of the divide is exacerbated by what you see in the media’s talking head political shows,” Herzik said. “Voters are more discerning than they are often portrayed to be.”

Herzik cited the re-election of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and the approval of a ballot initiative that will increase the state’s minimum wage by $1 as evidence that Nevada does not vote with one voice.

Herzik said he doesn’t expect Bush to make a specific move to reach out to Democrats because his strong showing in the polls indicates the majority of the country approves of his agenda.

“Today is a raw, emotional day,” said Stephanie Hague, chairwoman of the Douglas County Democratic Central Committee, on Wednesday. “I think Democrats don’t feel the president supports us as a people. I think we really want the administration to listen to more people. There are a lot of people hurting in the country.”

Hague said it would be a good idea to have statesmen get together and discuss what issues the country can come together on to bridge the rift.

“We need to figure out why people (on) the coasts feel differently than people in the middle,” Hague said. “It would not be on social issues like gun control or abortion. But we have to unite on several things like defense of this country and how to take care of our elderly and young children.”

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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