All this is interesting and helpful to me, but merely a revelation of what I had supposed all along.
What has helped me especially understand it is an article by Joshua Holland [“To Understand the Shutdown You Have to Grasp the Mindset of the GOP Base,” October 5, 2013, by Joshua Holland] who has summarized a survey of Republican groups by the Democracy Corp. This is what they say about the voting base that supports these Republicans:
The base consists of three kinds of groups. Even though they differ in certain ways, they agree on their fear of a changing society. For all of them The battle over Obamacare, “goes to the heart of Republican base thinking about the essential political battle.” They think [the …] Democratic Party … is intent on expanding government to increase dependency and therefore electoral support.” So, food stamps for the poor, unemployment benefits, legalizing the illegal immigrants, insuring the uninsured – these policies create dependency. So they oppose support for the poor, the unemployed, the immigrants, the uninsured. “They believe this is an electoral strategy — not just a political ideology or economic philosophy. If Obamacare happens, the Republican Party may be lost, in their view,” says Holland. What especially struck me was the comment that this group is fully aware of how white they are “in a country with growing minorities.” So there indeed is an implicit racist worry in this movement.
They all see Obama as a usurper, a liar, a Marxist, even (as some believe) a Muslim, but they differ in certain ways.
The Evangelicals are primarily alarmed about the gay rights movement.
The libertarians hardly believe in government and are strongly pro-business.
The moderates on the other hand disdain the Tea Party elements of the party and scorn Fox News – surely the main source of the notions that Obama is a liar, a Marxist, a Muslim, etc. – but they are concerned about how marginal they are becoming to the GOP. In fact, they see the party as pathetically out of date.
So here we are, a country in the grip of a terrified, paranoid minority who have the wealth and leverage to shut down the whole country. That the rank and file are animated by fears created by a small cabal makes the scene all the more scary.