The congressional battle over continuing a payroll tax holiday for 160 million workers gave us a glimpse at what the new year will look like as the political stakes ratchet up in a presidential election year.
Every issue before Congress likely will be fought on philosophical grounds, with what's good for the nation as a secondary consideration.
We have reached a time in our development when winning House and Senate seats and the presidency overrides good public policy. No one is in the mood to work together. House Republicans won't do anything to make President Barack Obama look good as he seeks re-election, and the president won't want to give the GOP any political victories.
Every American should be concerned. The contentious politics in our nation's capital is not good for the nation, and may even be seen as a weakness by our enemies.
We are not naive about how politics works, and understand that each side works to gain political advantage. And a divided government can be a good thing when it is part of our system of checks and balances. But when the inability to work together creates gridlock, little of substance can get done for the American people.
Our fragile economy is an example. House Republicans -- until they pulled back after much pressure -- appeared willing to hurt the economy with a tax increase by not going along with the two-month extension of the tax holiday.
It's not that House Republicans were opposed to the tax holiday, they didn't want to sign on to a compromise worked out by the Democratic-controlled Senate. This was a deal that Senate Republicans overwhelmingly approved. So the House GOP almost scuttled the deal rather than find common ground.
Not until the House was hit by a huge public backlash over the possible tax increase did the Republicans reluctantly approve the Senate version of the bill.
The question that Washington politicians must answer is whether our nation and the economic recovery can stand another year of such political game-playing.
In the San Joaquin Valley, with its high unemployment and businesses trying to catch an economic break, we're looking for leadership, not partisanship.