(It's not your dad's idea of government anymore)
I think one could probably argue the Reagan Years represent eight years of leaving the "hen house door open", and what we get to deal with now are the disemboweled carcasses of prudent ideas and the blood soaked abatoir of long range thinking.
Okay, leaving the grisly poetics aside, we can probably trace this "earthquake" (as Hedrick Smith puts it) back to the Nixon Years:
Hedrick Smith: “I think what happened . . .back in the 1970’s, and it actually began in the House not in the Senate, was a power earthquake that took place, an explosion of power that brought Congress as a whole in rebellion against the President. We had Watergate and Vietnam as you recall. We had the budget resolutions, the whole budget process, the whole War Powers resolution on Foreign Policy. And then an upheaval within Congress, a kind of anti-authority mood that swept the country during Vietnam and infected Congress, the members of the House threw out some of the old committee chairmen, the old seniority system was cracked, and at the same time a tremendous reform in the political financing system for campaigns, which brought a growth, an acceleration of the whole money business and special interest politics and then the dissolving effect of television. Our government is a much harder government to run for any President or for the leaders of the Senate or the House than it was in the time of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon.”
This documentary, part of the CBS Radio Newsmark series from May 8, 1988 features Lawton Chiles, Daniel Evans and Sen. Paul Trible, as well as N.Y. Times correspondent Hedrick Smith discussing with CBS News Correspondent Judy Muller the changes that have taken place in Washington in the Post-JFK, Post-LBJ period.
From all appearances, it's the downward slide that just didn't quit.