I know you talk about how dysfunctional the GOP caucus is, but what do you think is causing it, and what can be done about it?I don't know the answer to this one, and I don't think anybody does. I have two basic answers to "why the crazy?" on the GOP side, but I'll stress that they're quite speculative.
Why do you think polarization has been so asymmetric? Why would one party become so extreme while another becomes less extreme?
Factor one is the conservative marketplace: there just seems to be a lot of consumers for right-wing crazy, whether it's the success of Glenn Beck in his many platforms, or the conservative books that dominate the NYT best seller lists, or...well, no need to go through it all. As far as why that is, I don't really know; I've seen some smart-sounding speculation, but nothing that was conclusive at all. Regardless of where it comes from, the effect is that it creates all sorts of bizarre incentives for embracing the crazy.
Factor two is the perverse influence of a handful of Republican leaders over the years who were particularly destructive in their political styles. I'm mainly thinking of Nixon and Newt. Both parties have had shrewd and sharp partisans, but Nixon and Newt were different; they were institution-destroyers, and their success (which at least in Newt's case had little to do with his institution-destruction) made it likely that they would be emulated. As far as I'm concerned, that's just luck. I might, even more speculatively, talk a bit about Reagan. Reagan wasn't exactly anti-intellectual, but I do get the sense that his success (and of course especially his perceived success among Republicans) may get his semi-known-nothing style emulated as well. Note, though: this is all speculative, and it's easy to see holes in the argument! Reagan wasn't an institution-destroyer; Nixon had, and projected as having, detailed factual knowledge at his command at all times. So in wondering if Republicans have emulated the worst in them, well, I can see someone saying that it's unlikely.
As far as how to dig out of this, I have no idea.