Americans are deeply divided politically, so much so that polarization itself has become an issue that may overshadow the specific substantive disagreements among parties and candidates. So one of the big questions hanging over Tuesday’s voting was whether voters would send a clear signal in favor of pragmatic, as opposed to ideological, governance.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election suggests that the answer is at least partly “Yes.” This was not necessarily foreshadowed in the first year or two of Christie’s term, which began in 2009. The Republican governor made a national name for himself by confronting opponents, sometimes in angry language. But the issues he tackled — educational and pension reform — were genuine. And when the time came to legislate, he proved capable of working with Democrats. You don’t have to be a fan of Christie to be impressed by his victory.

Next door in New York City, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, was elected mayor by a huge margin after campaigning on a rather different theme. An unabashed liberal populist, de Blasio spoke of a “tale of two cities” and promised to focus on the plight of the 46 percent of New Yorkers who live on incomes equal to 150 percent of the federal poverty line or less. After 12 years of centrist, nonpartisan government under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, city services run more efficiently, school reform has advanced and crime has plummeted. Yet economic inequality represents the unfinished business of Bloomberg-style centrism — as, indeed, it remains a major issue nationally.

The new mayor’s challenge will be to husband the city’s resources and use them to cut inequality and expand opportunity — without forfeiting the gains in safety and livability that New York made during Bloomberg’s time.

The Washington Post (Nov. 6)