Personalities are important to the process, but policy substance matters too. The American people vividly rejected the government-centric leftward lurch of the first two years of the Obama administration. When the congressional leadership leaves the meeting, what will they know about the president’s priorities for the next two years? Will he continue to press for more spending while promising to control deficits later, or will he pledge to begin immediately unwinding the growth of government? How much time will he spend on his domestic agenda — as he did for 15 months on health care — while leaving the economy on the back burner? Or will there be a laser focus on the economy and a new pro-growth playbook?

The lame-duck session of Congress will provide an excellent preview of the future. For the American people, avoiding a tax increase and improving economic growth are the top priorities. At the moment, however, the Democratic leadership offers only class warfare rhetoric on this front, and its action is devoted to its social agenda playbook: the DREAM Act, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” and so forth. Will President Obama steer them to a more bipartisan process, a willingness to extend all the tax cuts, and rapid movement to settle the issue?

The stakes are high and the American public is eager to see the answer.