As the shock of Donald Trump's election settles in, an uneasy electorate faces the reality of a shattered American politics.
With the executive branch falling to a loose cannon driven by impulse, the nation is headed for a threateningly authoritarian era. Mr. Trump exudes the dictatorial odor of a man on a white horse.
At the same time, who will speak and act on behalf of the unglued Republican and Democratic parties in and out of Congress? In the GOP-controlled Senate, the pliable Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can be counted on to be Mr. Trump's instrument. In the House, Speaker Paul Ryan will strive to manage his conservative flock emboldened by the new, like-minded president about whom Mr. Ryan himself has reservations.
The Democrats will have a new Senate leader in New York's Chuck Schumer, along with the stolidly liberal Nancy Pelosi of California in the House. Both will have to dig in against an anticipated Trump onslaught against Barack Obama's legislative accomplishments, beginning with undoing Obamacare.
Beyond Capitol Hill, both parties will enter the Trump Era in turmoil. The old Republican Party establishment finds itself largely on the outside looking in, licking wounds suffered in Mr. Trump's trampling of its pathetic primary field of challengers.
Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus, who early on rolled over for Mr. Trump, has been chosen the new White House chief of staff, yet he has had no experience in Washington. Other party leaders who also signed on early, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, appear in line for high Trump administration posts.
As for the Democrats, the defeat of Hillary Clinton leaves the party looking to a depleted corps of left-of-center leaders including the aging Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to carry on the fight.
In retirement, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, though both will leave office still popular in party ranks, inevitably will become echoes of the past, as they struggle to defend the Obama legacy.
Perhaps the worst affront to President Obama in the aftermath of the election was having to welcome the winner Mr. Trump to the White House. Being obliged to show around the man who questioned his right by birth to be president was more than the retiring resident should have been required by protocol and good manners to do.
For going on eight years, Mr. Obama has served there with good will, good humor, intelligence and reverence for the position, as well as an appreciation for its history and symbolism. He came in bearing an agenda of hope and change but was obliged to spend much of his time there undoing the damage left by another Republican president in matters of peace and war.
Mr. Biden as a surrogate for Hillary Clinton correctly identified a key factor in her loss. He warned that his party was not doing enough to court the old blue-collar New Deal constituency that Mr. Trump managed to lure by speaking to its fears of lost jobs in the Rust Belt, winning Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Now, the newcomer has already signaled his intention to take over the presidential desk to undo the Obama years, starting with his host's namesake health care law. He has also threatened, perhaps facetiously, to put the Democrat he has just defeated in jail. Surely he has the good sense to shelve that particular insanity.
Mr. Trump's invitation to the White House was largely earned by effectively disparaging his host's presidential years as an abysmal economic failure. He did so even though Mr. Obama reduced the nation's unemployment rate from 10 percent to the current 4.9 percent, adding millions of new jobs in that time and bailing out the American automobile industry.
Unfortunately, the country must now endure from the Democrats in Congress the same obstructionist mode fashioned by the Republicans there for the last six years, starting with yet another fight over Mr. Obama's health-care law. It's hardly a joyous or optimistic way to usher in the horrific mistake committed by the voters last Tuesday.
Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power" (Smithsonian Books). His email is email@example.com.