The Senator Bunning/unemployment benefit extension fiasco is another illustration of a fundamental truth that was revealed to me some years ago in a book (more of pamphlet really) titled "Why Turkeys Run the World." The fundamental truth is that real decision-making power does not reside in the people with a goal or a mission or something to accomplish. The real power rests with people without any goal or agenda whatsoever.
Take Senator Bunning (please). The reason he was able to block Senate action was due in large part to the peculiar (to say the least) rules of that body, but the reason he was so successful was that he wasn't actually trying to accomplish anything, or even actually trying to block anything. If he had been trying to accomplish something, then the other Senators could have negotiated with him. But he didn't actually want anything, so there was nothing to offer him. It was his very purposelessness that gave him power.
A similar dynamic was seen in Senator Lieberman's self-indulgent opposition to health care reform. The real problem was not that Lieberman supported health care reform, or that he opposed it, but that he really didn't give a damn one way or another. Not really caring what happened, he had much greater freedom of action, and much greater power, than the Senators who stood for something.
Elections are usually decided by the independents in the middle, not with the stalwarts on either side of the political divide. Similarly, Congressional power resides in the indifferent and the unprincipled, not the dedicated.