When the dust settled after Tuesday's election, Washington looked pretty much the same.
While there were some minor shifts in Congress, the House remains in Republican control, and the Democrats are in charge in the Senate — but with a GOP minority big enough to maintain a filibuster.
And, of course, President Barack Obama was returned to office by the nation's voters. In short, things in Washington are as they have been for the past two years.
We suppose the same thing could be said for the nation as a whole. American opinion on political matters remains sharply divided. Both liberals and conservatives may argue that they ultimately will gain the upper hand. But right now, evidence supporting any such contention looks awfully thin.
Two years ago, Republicans scored major gains at the national level (and elsewhere in many instances) on a wave of anger aimed at Democratic health care reform efforts.
Amid lingering economic woes, many in the GOP envisioned even more success Tuesday. It didn't happen. Even in the U.S. Senate, where Republicans hoped to make inroads with 23 Democratic and just 10 GOP-held seats up for grabs, the Democrats actually scored slight gains.
Along with Obama's re-election and the pickup of a few Democratic seats in the House, the 2010 Republican wave appears to have come to an end.
So where does that leave the nation? The way we see it, precisely where it has been for several years. Only now, however, perhaps more people on the left and right will recognize the reality of the situation.
With the election over, we will see more attention being paid to the so-called "fiscal cliff." That's the tough budget cuts scheduled to take effect early next year unless Congress pursues alternatives.
Such an effort on the part of lawmakers must be an act of compromise. The makeup of Congress and the results of this election are ample evidence of that.
But do enough politicians understand the consequences? And do enough members of the American public appreciate the dangers of failing to resolve crucial ideological differences?
You can find some political analysts who suggest party leaders will sit down and hammer out agreements now that the election is over. But in Washington, there is always an election right around the corner.
And raising money for them is a constant process. The money frequently comes from special interests that aren't interested in compromise or in politicians who are willing to negotiate.
Crafting a meaningful budget compromise in Washington that moves the nation toward growth will be difficult and painful. However, failing to handle that task will take a toll on both parties.
-- The New Castle News New Castle, Pa.