In 1993, I wrote a book (The Malevolent Leaders: Popular Discontent in America) about the dramatic loss of public trust in governmental leaders and institutions that had taken place since the mid-sixties. I argued that people had lost confidence in government because of bad policies, bad personal behavior – and because of the growing feeling that our leaders weren’t paying sufficient attention to the needs and wishes of their constituents (except maybe for the ones who made generous campaign contributions).

Has anything changed since 1993? For a short time following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it did. Polls showed that a majority of citizens once again felt that government could be counted on to do “the right thing” most of the time. But this change was temporary, as our natural instinct to rally together in times of national crisis gave way to a new wave of doubt regarding both the competence and integrity of elected officials at all levels of the political system. Indeed, as we prepare to go to the polls on November 2, the level of dissatisfaction among the general public appears to have reached unprecedented heights (at least since the beginning of the polling era in the 1940s).

Consider the following: According to a Rasmussen survey last January, 45% of likely voters (probably more now) think that a group of people selected at random from the phone book would do a better job of addressing the nation’s problems than the current Congress. In a March poll by Pew, 56% of all adults said they were “frustrated” with the federal government – while another 21% said they were “angry.” And in recent surveys by CNN and Newsweek, respectively, 67% disapproved of the way Republican leaders in Congress are doing their job (compared with 66% for Democratic leaders), and a plurality said that they thought the Democrats would do a better job at handling virtually every important issue facing the country (health care, unemployment, financial reform, energy, education, Afghanistan, and several others).

Think about it. If current prognostications are correct, voters are about to produce a major power shift favoring a political party in which they have very little confidence. The lesser of two evils, you say? Absolutely, and this is why more pundits seem to think that the time is ripe for the rise of a third party that would represent the large number of Americans whose preferences are not located near one end or the other of the ideological spectrum. Perhaps so, but the history of third-party movements in this country is not an encouraging one. Either way, though, it looks like the Democrats are about to take a beating on this particular Election Day. But, hey, that’s no reason to despair! Just be patient. In another two years, or four or six, you guys will likely be deemed the lesser of two evils by an electorate that is every bit as unhappy (if not more so) with the government’s performance as most voters are today. And then two or four or six years after that . . . well, you get the picture.

Stephen C. Craig is a professor and director of the Political Campaigning Program in the department of political science at the University of Florida.