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Citizen discussions of the 2004 presidential election provided an opportunity to examine the state of public discourse in the United States. Prior to 9/11 the public sphere was described by many as being in ill health. This study examines discourse about the 2004 election from discussion groups and online discussion boards after the presidential debates to identify the characteristics of discourse exhibited in the public sphere after 9/11. The examination revealed that both forms of discussion exhibited normative ideals. However, egocentric argument rooted in self-interest and personal examples were prevalent, and a preference for domestic rather than international issues was common. The significance of the research rests in the failure of much discussion, especially online discourse, to meet normative ideals. In the end, the findings provide a means for improving future public discourse.