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We Americans are increasingly given to political escapism. Regardless of our place on the political spectrum — Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative — we prefer self-serving fictions to messy realities. We avoid unpopular choices by hiding behind ideological platitudes. This defines Washington’s political paralysis and polarization. The question posed by the midterm elections is whether the parties want to break it.

The initial evidence is conflicting. President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader-elect Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, urge cooperation, suggesting a more pragmatic approach. But the president also pledges to act unilaterally on immigration through executive order, a stance that infuriates many Republicans. Not to be outdone, they promise again to repeal Obamacare — a futile act (they cannot override a presidential veto) designed to please the party base and alienate Democrats.

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