New sounds are to be heard in Washington. There is evidence that Democrats and Republicans are perhaps finding a common denominator after a long blockade, even on debt reduction, a topic where a deep trench gapes between the two parties. What is new is that Obama is signaling a readiness for significant savings in government spending, indeed in a place that traditionally hurts his Democrats: social programs. What is also new is that Obama’s ideas are no longer being completely rejected, at least not in closed ranks. Some conservatives have indicated willingness to compromise; at least in the atmosphere, something like a thaw is in sight.

Whether the perceived rapprochement will lead to a payoff in results is in no way guaranteed. Democrats and Republicans are too obligated to their clients; their interests in a political landscape are too different; the divisions cemented. But it is the first hope of movement in a long time. The country urgently needs it.