11/26/2010 11:25 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

What Did You Say?

Our current governmental structure is precariously poised on the horns of a dilemma. Thanks to the verdict rendered November 2, the ideological and philosophical divide is wider than before. If the American electorate, or at least those who made the effort to vote, intended to reflect an exhaustive and introspective analysis of governance and the inability of one-party rule to solve problems and in their infinite wisdom concluded that split government was the answer, then their colossal miscalculation will soon enough be evident. If, however, the verdict reflects impatience, irritability, and the quintessential quirkiness of a populace used to getting what it wants and wanting to send a loud and unmistakable message to those in power that it is intent on holding its breath until it does, then the upcoming train wreck will certainly make for interesting viewing, and unfortunate consequences.

Either way, to those who are suffering the most: the poor, unemployed, underemployed, health-care deprived, and foreclosed upon, your nightmare is about to be extended. It would be very easy for the shellacked party to throw up its hands, sigh, and proclaim that you get what you deserve. After all, to anyone who either has lost or is in the process of losing their livelihoods and hard-earned material rewards, their unemployment insurance, or who gaze at their children each night and worry and pray that they not get sick, you had a chance to influence the system and the people, those who voted, have spoken.

To those who have given up on participating in the referendum on policy and direction the lesson learned will be a hard one indeed. To those who actually registered their discontent in the form of choosing a set of policies and direction that are directly counter to your dreams, desires, and plain self-interest, well get ready for some advanced courses in anger management for you will need them.

We are all exhausted at this point by the endless analysis that has accompanied the sea change that has brought conservatism back into power. Whether or not the results represent a clear and definable mandate, it is clear that there is discontent and uneasiness rampant throughout our society. People are clamoring for clarity and certainty, yet our political leaders have tethered themselves to competing and diametrically opposing views of just exactly what the American people said.

Democrats are convinced that the rejection is borne of dissatisfaction with respect to timing and Republicans are certain that the rejection if reflective of dissatisfaction with the policy direction outlined by the President. Tea Partiers, having cast their lot with the Republicans, go a step further and believe that a radical and fundamental shift back to a mythical point in our evolution as a country will cure what ails us. It is against this backdrop that the legislative process must concoct a remedy, a legislative process that is sausage-making in its finest moments.

One group believes that government has a role to play in getting us out of this mess; the other believes that government is the problem. The true believers took a beating last week, the cynics prevailed. But it is important for the true believers to not merely toss their beliefs in the trash heap and succumb to the cynical proposition that those who need help do not deserve it. Human instinct is to abandon those who do not support you. But doing so here would make a mockery of those true beliefs. Progressives and liberals must continue to abide by the belief that no one else will come to the rescue of those who need help the most. And true public servants often pay a steep price indeed for those fast held beliefs that society benefits most from a system that protects the most vulnerable amongst us.

It is easy for the cynics to reap political rewards for disparaging those less fortunate than the rest: they either are lazy, not motivated, or simply not worthy. It is always their fault, so they must live with the consequences of their actions. This is the truest form of personal responsibility, in the cynic's eye.

As much as many of us are shocked, amazed, and yes angry about the consequences of this election, we must continue to be true to our beliefs that government can be a constructive force in society, and that as hard as it may seem there are large numbers of people who are desperately dependent upon our efforts.

So the cynics will have their day soon but not before one last shot in the lame duck session to do what is right. The Democrats cannot do it alone; they will need minimal help from the other side. That help has been in short supply these last several years, by maybe, just maybe some relief will come soon to those who are dreading this Christmas.