A nation vocally disgusted with the status quo has reinforced it by ratifying existing control of the executive branch and both halves of the legislative branch. After three consecutive “wave” elections in which a party gained at least 20 House seats, and at a moment when approval of Congress has risen — yes, risen — to 21 percent, voters ratified Republican control of the House, keeping in place those excoriated as obstructionists by the president the voters retained. Come January, Washington will be much as it has been, only more so.

Obama is only the second president (Andrew Jackson was the first) to win a second term with a reduced percentage of the popular vote, and the third (after Madison and Woodrow Wilson) to win a second term with a smaller percentage of the electoral vote. A diminished figure after conducting the most relentlessly negative campaign ever run by an incumbent, he has the meager mandate of not being Bain Capital. Foreshadowing continuing institutional conflict, which the constitutional system not only anticipates but encourages, Speaker John Boehner says of the House Republican caucus: “We’ll have as much of a mandate as he will.”