As a counterpoint to my earlier post, Eric Idle, writing at HuffPo:
Half of America seems to be entirely enviable: movies, books, TV, arts, liberal democratic institutions, great centers of learning and research, gay marriage, social freedoms, etc., etc.
The other half does seem to be, well, nuts.
Currently you appear to be almost in a state of civil war. If one party can shut down the government, then the social compact to rule is broken. In most other democracies this simply could not happen. In the UK, for example, the government would dissolve and the prime minister would call for an immediate general election, which would be held within three weeks. (Yes, that quickly.) With your fixed terms you do not have this benefit. You must limp on to the next overlong election cycle and then waste a whole year of execrable television and billions of dollars on it. This is a very expensive and not very flexible system of democracy that no one else wants to follow.
The Mad Hater’s Tea Party throws everything overboard, not just the tea. The captain, the crew, the ships dog… Pirates could hardly do worse.
And this from Think Progress:
Ultimately, the roots of the looming shutdown stem from a different distinction between our government and that of most other modern democracies. Canada, Britain and many other democratic nations are what is known as “parliamentary democracies,” meaning that the nation’s executive is chosen by whoever controls the legislature. Stephen Harper’s power flows from the fact that his party controls a majority of the seats in Parliament. Similarly, Prime Minister David Cameron owes his job to his position as the leader of a governing coalition in the legislature. President Obama’s election, by contrast, took place entirely separate from the (admittedly, quite flawed) election that placed Republicans in control of the House. In the United States it is possible for a president to serve despite the fact that he or she is widely loathed by both houses of Congress. This is a unique problem facing what are known as “presidential democracies.”
IOW, the Madisonian system is working exactly as it should and the outcomes are unacceptable; the flaw is inherent in the system, the system itself is flawed.