"It's the worst of times." The words are Charles Dickens', from the opening paragraph of a novel set in the 1790s, but the sentiment is familiar today. Americans are divided as never before, we are frequently told, angrily at odds with one another, polarized politically, economically, culturally and in our entertainment preferences.
The Republican president, considered a lightweight and an ignoramus by many in Washington, suffered a setback in the offyear elections, losing several seats and effective control in the House, while maintaining and perhaps strengthening his party in the Senate. His leverage on domestic issues is reduced, but he retains the initiative on foreign policy and judgeships.
On Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans will compete for the 42nd time in a nonpresidential-year contest -- a rivalry that goes back to 1854. That's the oldest such partisan competition in the world.
Do they live in two different worlds? White college graduate women favor Democrats over Republicans in House elections by a 62 to 35 percent margin. White non-college-graduate men favor Republicans over Democrats in House elections by a 58 to 38 percent margin.
"I have some thoughts on 'enthusiasm' and the election," tweeted Amy Walter, the Cook Political Report's ace analyst of House races. What I and, I suspect, others expected to follow was a discussion of how voters' enthusiasm, positive or negative, tends to determine who wins elections, especially in off-year elections, when turnout is more variable.
Democrats had greater enthusiasm in 2006 and won both houses of Congress; Republicans had even more enthusiasm in 2010 and gained the largest number of House seats either party had since 1948.
"You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about," Hillary Clinton told CNN last Tuesday. Her words cannot be taken literally, for you can be civil if you want to; they're a statement that she doesn't want to.
"I can't think of a more embarrassing scandal for the United States Senate since the McCarthy hearings," said Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn as then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the afternoon of Sept. 27, "and the question was asked, 'Have you no sense of decency?'"
Here's my question," tweets legal scholar Jeffrey A. Sachs, obviously in response to the controversy over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. "what is the alternative reality where Roe was never decided, levels of partisan polarization are identical to our own, and the SCOTUS appointments process is markedly better?"
"I did not, and of course I looked for it, looked for it hard." That was Bob Woodward, promoting his book on the Trump White House, "Fear," replying to talk radio host and columnist Hugh Hewitt's question "Did you, Bob Woodward, hear anything in your research, in your interviews, that sounded like espionage or collusion?"
"It's the Lord of the Flies on LaSalle Street," wrote columnist John Kass in the Chicago Tribune. In case the references are unclear, whether because high schools haven't been assigning the William Golding novel in the last few decades or because out-of-towners unaccountably don't realize that Chicago's City Hall front is on LaSalle Street, the curmudgeonly Kass was writing about Mayor Rahm Emanuel's announcement that he won't run for a third term as mayor next February.