From a Congressional Quarterly News Service report by Janet Hooks {Oct. 22}:

The budget fracas has laid bare forces in Congress and the country that have been gathering for years to make the government seem rudderless. They include the following:

The erosion of old structures of legislative leadership. Congressional leaders have few tools of discipline, and their "followers" came to Congress more inclined to take their cue from pollsters than from senior colleagues.

The erosion of party identity. Both parties lack a firm sense of direction in the post-Reagan, post-Cold War era and are riven by divisions over policy and political strategy... .

But it is not clear that the government would act more decisively if the same party controled Capitol Hill and the White House. Democrat Jimmy Carter's rocky relations with a Democratic-controled Congress provide a sobering counterexample. And there have been GOP presidents who have fared better than Bush with a Congress dominated by the other party. For most of Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidency, he had a productive relationship with a Democratic Congress.

But in Eisenhower's time, there was a consensus about the country's direction and the economic growth needed to drive it. Now as the country faces recession, the challenge before Congress is to allocate sacrifice... .

Anti-government sentiment has long been simmering in American society, but it has begun to boil as Congress approaches the 1990 elections... . Nonetheless, the "throw the rascals out" sentiment isn't likely to result in big institutional changes any time soon. It swelled too late in the 1990 campaign to result in vast turnover in Congress this year.