I mean, why not? We've had threats of shutdowns and actual shutdowns over the last twenty years - we're facing the 20-year anniversary of a major shutdown in 1995 - by Republicans, and after all few of the people sitting in office today ever paid for a single one of them despite the damage done.
An interesting twist in this year's Shutdown Showdown is that there IS a Republican facing the likelihood of paying for it. Thing is, the person whose head is under the Sword of Damocles is the Speaker of the House Boehner. Per Matt Lewis of the Daily Beast:
If Boehner makes even a minor misstep in the next few weeks, he will likely face a challenge—and sources indicate it would be a very close vote. In fact, right now I’d put the odds at about 50-50 that he goes down. That’s because the real goal of House conservatives right now isn’t to defund Planned Parenthood or shut down the government—their goal is to get rid of Boehner.
The rebels are going to wait to see what Boehner does regarding defunding Planned Parenthood in the next continuing resolution. He will have to make a choice between keeping the government open and pleasing House conservatives, and neither of these options are very appealing. Shutting down the government could only hurt the GOP, but Boehner’s own political survival is at stake if he appears to be capitulating to the Democrats.
On that last point, Lewis is wrong: shutting down the government before - in 1995 and 1996, and in 2013 - never hurt the GOP. It may have cost them prestige among the Beltway media - who nonetheless seemed willing to forgive and forget - but House Republicans in particular have yet to answer for their costly hostage attempts that ended up winning them few tangible gains.
But now there's a simmering backbencher revolt that could - if carried out - cause a massive shift in power in Congress. Boehner may be unpopular among the Far Right elements of an already Far Right party, but he has his supporters and a power base you shouldn't sneeze at (nobody becomes Speaker in a vacuum: people owe him some huge favors). If the rebel factions do succeed in No-Confidence voting Boehner out of the Speakership, he's not going to go quietly and his allies are going to figure out ways to make the usurpers suffer.
If the vote against Boehner garners him enough backers... There's a 58 seat difference between Republican and Democratic control. All Boehner needs are over 30-35 Republicans in personally safe districts (likely Blue/Purple states) to drop out of the GOP (even as Independents) and caucus with the Democrats, effectively ruining the radicals' plans of ruling in the first place.
And that's one scenario, where revenge would be sweet. There's another scenario where the Republicans implode, although a lot of collateral damage would kick in. The "You Get What You Wanted And It's a Hell of a Git You Got" scenario.
One of the reasons why the Republicans never paid for their sins of shutdowns was because their House leadership had enough sense and political savvy to work out deals that would allow them to retain some dignity. The Far Right guys may decry such leadership, but it covered their asses so far. With that cover gone...
If the Far FAR Right congresscritters succeed in their plan, they are likely to put into the Speakership someone with attitude and anger but no legal skill (Gohmert comes to mind). Someone who would pursue every fantastical "theory" and "game-changing" act the Far Right desires. A legislative program that basically goes all-out: A massive anti-immigrant bill that would be a real-world logistical disaster; massive cuts to every social safety net including Medicare and Social Security; massive deregulatory acts; a straight-up abortion ban without exemptions. Things that would drive real-world moderates and centrists right into the arms of the Democratic Party.
Worse than that, the new Speaker is likely going to go Full Birther/Anti-Obama. Granted, Boehner has been dissing Obama as a weak and even illegitimate President for years. The replacement Speaker will prove his bona fides by going into full Impeachment mode. He'd HAVE to: the Far Right has accused Obama of committing illegal acts - think about that still-pressing lawsuit against Executive Orders - for so long they are now expected to do SOMETHING to stop him. This is why Boehner loses his control in the first place: he's been seen as "weak" on confronting Obama even with the moves he HAS made. Impeachment - considering Obama will veto every harsh Republican bill that Congress sends him - is the last major weapon they've got left.
The likelihood of Impeachment increases with the likelihood of Boehner's ouster. The charges will likely not make any legal or logical sense, nor be based on a genuine scandal or outrage. The radical Republicans will likely seize on what THEY consider a scandal - Benghazi tops the odds - and simply vote on that. And when the Senate votes against it, the House will simply issue another Impeachment (there are no limits) charge. And again. And again. For them, it's all win-win: they appease their voting base and they make Obama look weak. See, historians! He was impeached! WORST PRESIDENT EVER...
In the meantime, nothing gets done. All other needed legislation dies because the House's radicalism prevents them from passing sensible bills: anything they do pass will be so extreme Obama can easily veto and give solid argument doing so.
In the meantime, this Congress gains the reputation for being obsessive compulsive maniacs to the point of inaction. People who take governing seriously - moderates and centrists - will not take any Republican from Congress serious at all. While this has been said before, and Republicans were able to get away with it, this time around... This time, their grandstanding will get old real quick. Some of their media cheerleaders will fall silent, they will have to, unable to stick to the old narrative of "both sides do it" because clearly only Republicans do act like madmen.
In the meantime, the Republican Congresspersons lose whatever meager popular support they have with general voters. Hint: it's currently around 14 percent, which means in a two-party electorate (50/50) AND in a three-wing ideology (33 percent liberal, 33 percent moderate, 33 percent conservative) this Congress has a lot of fellow Republicans HATING IT. And they're doing this during an election cycle with a Presidency topping the ballot, something that generates a large enough voter turnout (over 50 percent) to where even gerrymandered "safe" districts run a risk of turnover. This group of Republicans will be behaving very badly on issues - birth control and women's health, immigration - that hurt them before in 2012.
This Congress - once again one of the WORST EVER - is running into the genuine likelihood - at long last - of paying the price for their obstruction and "destroy the government" mindset.
I don't know which version of the coming insurrection would be more satisfying. Letting these Republican extremists fall on their own swords would be most pleasing, but a lot of innocent people could get hurt along the way. Letting whatever sane Republicans are left block the radicals from self-immolation would likely save our government and our Constitution and our citizenry, but will let the Far Right off the hook by letting them play the victim card one more time and blame "traitors" for ruining their gameplan.
Either way, we're heading into another messy September and another Long October.