The era of divided government in America is upon us again.
Thursday, with the reconvening of the 116th Congress, Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, following their sweeping 40-seat gains in the November midterm elections.
That means Democrats have a foothold in power. Republicans still control the White House and the Senate (and effectively the Supreme Court) but Democrats now are players again.
Most significantly for the year ahead they can make the life of President Donald Trump completely miserable.
They will certainly launch a wide range of investigations into his finances, conflicts of interest, abrupt policy decisions, and ethical conduct.
Already we are glimpsing the political paralysis that divided government brings.
We are in Day Thirteen of a government shutdown that was triggered by vehement disagreement about the value of funding Trump’s border wall.
The White House wants a minimum of $5 billion to extend and strengthen the wall along the frontier with Mexico.
Democrats insist the wall is both immoral and ineffective.
But there is another aspect to this Congress that may be most transformational, beyond the short-term squabbling and bickering.
This is a more diverse group of Congressmen and Congresswomen than ever before.
The House is seeing among its new members, a Somali-American lawmaker, a Palestinian-American representative, and, yes, a woman Speaker.
Nancy Pelosi has held the job before, but it’s still a remarkable achievement that the Californian liberal will now be among the most powerful women in America’s political firmament.
So in 2019 we will witness both great dysfunction and great hope in American politics.
We will see a more diverse political leadership - a Congress that looks more like the country it represents.
But at the apex will remain the beleaguered, besieged and narcissistic President.
How those two forces collide and interact for the next year will be a high-stakes spectacle that will determine the fate of the Presidency and of America.