First, what we agree on: minority parties, mostly Republicans, are increasingly resorting to extraordinary measures, such as recall elections, filibusters, and, now, the government shutdown along with a threat of a debt limit breach. As opposed to either just waiting to contest the next election, or to normal attempts to influence outcomes by logrolling, bargaining, and more, realizing that they won't be able to win by doing those things but they would have the capacity to moderate their policy losses. All of that is definitely true.
Seth says that it's the effect of polarization: since the parties are so far apart, losing is an objectively bigger deal (the policy differences are larger). What's more, since far more things are party-line, losing happens more often to the out-party.
It's plausible, but I don't really think that's it, or at least it's only a relatively small portion of it.
What I think is going on is that the dysfunctional strand of the GOP -- what Norm Ornstein calls "radicals" today, as opposed to conservatives -- has, for a variety of reasons come to dominate the party. Basically, it's not that the Rockefeller wing is long gone; it's that the the legacy of McCarthy, Nixon, and Newt has overwhelmed the legacy of Taft, Reagan, and Dole within the conservative movement.* Essentially, what I'd say is that McCarthy, Nixon, and Newt all proved capable of crashing the system in one way or another, even with a lot less polarization and (in the first two cases) with weaker parties than we have now.
Seth says, cleverly, that if we know that there are people who are going to want to do this sort of thing, we should:
take away the dangerous toys. We don't have to have the filibuster, the recall, or a separate vote to raise the debt ceiling to pay for things Congress has already voted to pay for. None of these things were written into the US Constitution, no less the Bible. If we don't like the way they're being used, we can choose to abolish them.I'm very skeptical of this solution. I have a lot more confidence in the capacity of various Newtlets to figure out how to construct new dangerous toys, MacGyver-like, out of whatever happens to be lying around.
Moreover, while I'd be perfectly happy to get rid of recalls and some other legacies of the Progressive era, as long as we have a system of separated institutions sharing powers, the Newtlets and Tail Gunner Teds are going to be able to exploit the basic structure of the government. Indeed, in the wake of the shutdown we've had a number of calls for getting rid of that basic structure (and I'm hoping to write a response soon; regular readers know I disagree). But in the real world we're pretty much stuck with it, for better or worse. I much better like the idea of figuring out incentives to fix the broken Republican Party than the idea of rearranging the system to limit the damage that some mulyaks can cause.
*I realize as I write this: I don't actually know as much as I should about Taft. I know about his failed campaigns for the GOP presidential nomination, but really not all that much about how he actually conducted himself in the Senate. Put it on the list of things I should learn more about...