For almost two years, it has been a mantra for candidates of all stripes promising change, but the reality of a dysfunctional Washington was not fully seen until today, fittingly enough in the White House whose occupant has spent eight years politicking and polarizing without a semblance of the skills required to govern.
Today's meeting to achieve a consensus on the financial rescue package ended in a "verbal brawl" with Bush and the two presidential candidates helpless to say or doing anything to stop it.
Ironically, it is conservative House Republicans, after giving the Administration sheeplike devotion for years, who are now the biggest obstacle to bipartisan agreement.
The blight is not limited to one party. Congressional Democrats, after almost two years in charge, may be in less disarray now but have failed over that time to win public confidence that they know what they're doing.
So, with time out for the pointless McCain and Obama cameos, the pressure to do something before rushing home to campaign for their jobs increases on all sides amid an outpouring of public anger and uncertainty about what will actually work in the real world, which resembles Washington less with each passing day.
The President and Congress who take over in January have a lot of patching and mending to do before they can accomplish anything.