A central theme of the dysfunction is a lack of trust: Republicans and Democrats don’t trust each other; rank-and-file freshman Republicans in the House and the Senate, many of whom won their seats thanks to tea party support, don’t always trust party leaders; there’s no love lost between Congress and the White House; and the public doesn’t trust government or other major institutions.

Even on an individual level, members of Congress are casting wary glances at each other — as the newly elected bash the institution and veteran lawmakers say they can’t fathom what motivates their junior colleagues.

“This is the first time that I can remember being confronted by members of the Congress, my colleagues, who say, ‘I don’t care if I get reelected or not, I want to cut the budget by $100 billion or whatever,’” said a bewildered Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who was first elected to Congress in 1964. “I’ve never seen that kind of a member before. … It’s a dangerous point of view from my perspective.”