That was the message Scott Rasmussen, founder and president of Rasmussen Reports, delivered Wednesday during AWB's annual Policy Summit.
It's unclear where things will end up. And it's unsettling, Rasmussen admitted. But he believes it's also a healthy part of American democracy.
Rasmussen, who is one of the nation's leading pollsters, has earned a reputation as someone who knows where the country is heading because he gauges the mood of average Americans rather than the so-called political class.
Americans today are frustrated with the economy and no longer view the downturn as a normal business cycle, he said. Rather they see it as a sign that something has gone fundamentally wrong.
In fact, they distrust the whole economic and political system to the extent that his polling shows most Americans not only think Congress is corrupt, but their own congressman or congresswoman is corrupt, he said.
The frustration has been building for decades beneath the surface, driven largely by Americans' displeasure with the level of government spending. The last time government spending went down from one year to the next was 1954, Rasmussen said.
The frustration surfaced after the hugely unpopular government bailouts during the depth of the Great Recession, he said.
The political parties haven't figured out how to respond to the upheaval, he said. But Americans have made it clear with their votes that they don't like Republicans or Democrats.
Depending on what happens in 2012, and where the economy ends up, the result could be a serious third-party challenger in 2016, Rasmussen said.
Based on his polling, Barack Obama would lose to either Rick Perry or Mitt Romney if the election was held today, Rasmussen said.
But there is still a long time before the election, he added.
Despite all of the bad news, Rasmussen said he is still optimistic about the future. That's partly because of his understanding of history. Fundamental change takes a few decades, and it's driven by the electorate rather than politicians, he said.
The American Revolution, the New Deal and Civil Rights Movement were all examples of fundamental change that came about after decades of simmering frustration, Rasmussen said.
Ultimately, Rasmussen said he is optimistic because the attitude of the American people is healthy and they know what they want. "People don't want special favors," he said. "They want to know what the rules are."