Mickey Edwards, a political analyst at the Aspen Institute and a former Republican leader in Congress, cautioned that both parties may be misinterpreting the election returns and could wind up antagonizing voters even more as a result.
Obama and fellow Democrats are kidding themselves, he said, if they believe their crushing losses were merely a result of poor communication, as the president and many of his allies have suggested. "They have to realize people handed them their hats and said, 'Leave.' They have to do something different," Edwards said.
Republicans, he went on, should look for ways to govern and not drive the two parties even further apart. (Lawmakers on both sides, he said, need to forget about the 2012 presidential race for the time being.)
"The American people don't give a damn about the political parties," Edwards said. "What they have is great concerns about their job security and about whether they're going to lose their homes and about whether they can afford to send their kids to [college]."
Few analysts, however, see room for much agreement — not when the two parties are philosophically so far apart and personal animosities, built over so many years of political trench warfare, run so deep.
"Things that are essential will get done," said Gary Jacobson, a UC San Diego political scientist who studies Congress. "They'll finance the wars. There will be a budget, after great debate. But it's unlikely anything very dramatic or important will be accomplished."
That could make vengeful voters even more disgusted. Only next time, unless the economy perks up and millions of people are back working in 2012, the wrath directed at Obama and his party could turn on the GOP as well.
Lisa Mascaro in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.