But a shutdown this week could have a silver lining. It could be such an electric shock to the political system that it forces the politicians in Washington to settle their squabbles before the default deadline.

What we know from past shutdowns is that not only citizens — especially older ones dependent on Social Security and Medicare — start raising hell, but so do business and financial leaders who see damage rippling across their economic interests. Politicians are increasingly seen as villains. Pressure tends to grow so unbearable that eventually Washington finds a solution.

Most of the pressure this time will be directed toward Republicans who have misplayed their hand. A new poll by CNN/ORC shows that 46% of Americans would blame a shutdown on Republicans, seeing them as spoiled children. Thirty six percent blame President Obama, and 13% point fingers at both.

Seasoned GOP leaders across the country know that if a shutdown does serious damage, chances of Republicans picking up Senate seats in 2014 and the White House in 2016 could evaporate. Those leaders will push intensely for a way out.