The most powerful dynamic, though, may be declining faith in both parties. As in the late 19th century, when divided government was also common, neither party has made stable progress against the most intractable problems of our time -- particularly the stagnation in wages for average families. That has contributed to an erosion of trust in Washington, reinforced over time by scandals, suspicion of special interests, and policy failures such as the 2008 financial meltdown.
In an ABC News/Washington Post survey this week, 43 percent of independents said they doubted that either Obama, congressional Democrats, or congressional Republicans could solve the nation's problems. In that environment, "Americans do not like unfettered authority given to one party," says Kenneth Duberstein, who was Ronald Reagan's White House chief of staff. The public's default switch may have flipped from centralizing authority in one party to fragmenting it.
Is divided government here to stay? Ron Brownstein argues it appears that way, at least for the time being.