Take a deep breath -- the torture is over

If you caught the final game of the World Series on Monday night, you no doubt noticed signs around the bleachers declaring the torture is over.

The posters referred to the decades of suffering that Giants' fans have endured. The franchise hadn't won a World Series since 1954.

But for those of us watching at home, the message came a day too soon. As the bombardment of political advertising between innings attested, our torture had another day to go.

We've no way to prove it, but the mood of this year's election seemed more ill-tempered than usual.

It may be the economy or the way the digital age amplifies even the vilest of opinions -- but whatever the cause, it's been a grueling election season.

That's unfortunate in a lot of ways -- chief among them is that good people have taken lashings they didn't deserve. The candidates we met -- and that includes everyone running a contested race in Benton and Franklin counties -- were without exception civic-minded individuals with a desire to serve their communities.

It's easy to stand on the sidelines and heap scorn on those who are willing to put themselves on the line -- easy and shameful.

But at least it's over.

If the predictions of pollsters and pundits were correct, then the nation took a giant step to the right Tuesday.

Whether that turns out to be good or bad for the country depends on the new Congress.

Our fear is that we will see new faces in Washington, D.C., but no meaningful change.

The government is on a spending spree that can't be sustained, and there's no painless way to bring it under control.

When was the last time Congress was willing to inflict any pain on the electorate, or call for even the slightest sacrifice on the part of the American people?

Heaven forbid. That might cost some votes in the next election.

Any realistic effort to unbridle future generations from our bad decisions will require sacrifice.

As a nation, it's well within our means to solve even our biggest problems. But whether Congress can muster the political courage to take action remains to be seen.

The worst-case scenario is two more years of the same partisan posturing that has prevented any real progress on addressing the perpetual gap between spending and revenue.

There's another option -- working together to solve the challenges America faces. That would require compromise, of course. And by definition, compromise means allowing the other side to win some points.

We've suffered too long in a political climate that equates any failure on your opponent's part to victory for your side.

The American people are lost in that equation.

We deserve a functioning Congress and an end to the stalemate in Washington, D.C. Our leaders -- those we retained Tuesday and the newly elected -- carry much of the burden.

But we all have a part to play. Each of us can tone down the rhetoric and open ourselves to listening to what the other side has to offer. We can disagree without being disrespectful.

It's not un-American to disagree with your point of view. Our political debate is fundamental to democracy.

Regardless of the outcome of Tuesday's election, there's much to celebrate. The system works. The torture is over.