Barack Obama could hear the voters talking, and he had no trouble making out their words.

“They want to change the tone here in Washington, where the two parties are coming together and focusing on the people's business as opposed to scoring political points,” the president said.

Translation: Despite big victories in the midterm elections, Republicans should do exactly what Democrats want.

Mitch McConnell heard the voters talking too, and he grasped their meaning just as clearly. People had rejected the Obama-Democratic “liberal onslaught,” the Republican leader announced. “We will make the case for repeal of the health spending bill even as we vote to eliminate its worst parts. We will vote to freeze and cut discretionary spending.”

Translation: Despite still holding the Senate and White House, Democrats should do exactly what Republicans want.

Say what?

Isn’t this a perfect roadmap for gridlock in Washington? The speed of legislative action in the next two years will make rush-hour Beltway traffic look like a fast night at Talladega.

That’s slow!

The big winner in the midterm elections wasn’t the Republicans, who soon will control the House of Representatives. It wasn’t the Democrats, who kept the Senate in a very tough year. It wasn’t even the breathless Tea Partiers, who came out of nowhere to frighten politicians on both sides.

The big winner was the likelihood of governmental paralysis. Conflicting rhetoric, divided politics, a sharp new focus on the presidential election of 2012: All of it will stall progress on just about everything.

This might be okay if we didn’t have real problems that needed solving so urgently. If jobs weren’t still fleeing to other nations. If millions of Americans weren’t still out of work. If health care wasn’t still broken. If immigration wasn’t still such a mess. If Social Security and Medicare weren’t still going broke. If two unpopular wars weren’t still raging, wars that no one can seem to end.

Unless Democrats and Republicans can somehow work together, all those problems will remain stubbornly with us – and only get worse.

Ah, divided government. It can be a wonderful thing.

Unless something actually needs to get done.

Ellis Henican is columnist for amNew York and Newsday. He is a Fox News contributor.