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10:54 PM Tue, Jan. 15th

Column: A brand new day for more of the same gridlock

Let's talk about the Nov. 2 electoral earthquake. The almost historic loss the Democrats suffered has changed the balance of power in Washington. It is the third major change voters have made in Washington in four years. And I promise you, it will not be the last.

What election night did not do, I am sorry to tell you, is change the way Washington operates. If you had any hope that civility and cooperation had arrived, don't hold your breath: You'll pass out waiting for it.

The popular spins on this election is that voters rejected President Obama's agenda or repudiated the policies promoted by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Yes, some people (especially those pesky pundits) will tell you voters fired those who bloated the federal budget. Trust me, I tell my fellow Democrats, voters knew what they wanted.

What voters rejected, in my humble belief, were the ways of Washington. Ironically, with their ballots, voters almost certainly locked-in the ways of Washington. Today, we are more polarized than we were prior to the election. Cooperation and compromise are now dirty words because of the victory handed to tea party movement candidates who removed moderates from both major parties.

Voters express great frustration that Congress did not do more on the economy to directly help middle- and working-class Americans. The voters want greater civility in Washington and greater cooperation. Voters wanted their incumbent representatives and senators to get this message, and made sure they underscored it by booting many of them out.

Unfortunately, those elected officials they replaced are now less inclined than before to any form of compromise. Don't believe me? Then believe them in their own words:

• Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, has said flatly his party will not cooperate on healthcare, stimulus spending or taxes.

When asked by the National Journal just days before the election what the first priority of the Republican Party would be, McConnell replied, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

• Rep. John Boehner, likely the next speaker of the House, when asked if he would work with the president on his agenda, said, "We're going to do everything - and I mean everything we can do - to kill it, stop it, slow it down, whatever we can."

Boehner added, "This is not a time for compromise, and I can tell you that we will not compromise on our principles." Boehner was asked if there were any circumstance under which he would he work with the president. He said he would welcome the president's involvement: "to the extent the president wants to work with us, in terms of our goals."

In other words, Republican leaders are saying it is "our way or the highway" in all legislative matters. Their post-election talk about compromise is a one-way street: They welcome the president's help in tearing down what he has constructed. They welcome his help in advancing purely Republican goals.

On all other matters, they will obstruct.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with being true to one's principles and holding firm. What is new here is the idea that Republican ideas and issues are the only principles that count. Republican leaders take it a step further: Ideas in opposition to theirs are not American ideas. Millions of independent voters decided to punish the Democrats as the party in power - the party they rightly hold responsible for getting things done. They intended to send a message that they want cooperation to get the economy moving. However, Republican leaders have interpreted their message as a wholesale repudiation of the Democrats' agenda.

Yet the polls do not show that this is how independents feel. Bear in mind that independents have the balance of power in their hands. They outnumber registered Democrats and registered Republicans. When party lines hold, independents have the say about who wins. Thus, while independents do want to see wasteful spending brought under control, they also want Congress to spend money to help create jobs.

These nuances, however, are lost on the Republican leadership. Expect to hear much more talk about what the American people want, when, in fact, the people remain about equally divided over just about everything the Democrats supported.

You would think this would be a perfect compromise situation. A situation where both sides would take the legislation that has passed, and compromise, keeping those things where there is majority agreement, and altering those issues that are contentious, such as mandated health coverage. That is not what will happen. The earthquake that happened in the midterms sent the message, "Can you hear me now?"

The answer is, "No, Washington does not hear you now."