Voters themselves are a big part of the problem, for more than one reason. One, as I explained a couple of weeks ago, is that their habit of swinging back and forth from one election to the next might be the biggest cause of gridlock in Washington.

But there’s another, perhaps deeper reason, one that’s both a cause and an effect of the political dysfunction from which we now suffer: a sharp decline in the public’s belief that government works.

This unwarranted, excessive negativism has a real effect on the electorate’s behavior, and in turn creates a pattern of voting — and equally important, non-voting — that determines which efforts to improve things will succeed and which are very likely to fail.