Democracy Corps has released some fascinating new qualitative research (conducted by Democratic pollster Greenberg Quinlan Rosner) that does a deep dive into the Republican brain; while they don't explicitly draw the link to the more rigorous studies on Republicanism and fear, much of what they elicited via focus group is, in a word, about fear ... fear of the Other, fear of losing the privilege that they've previously taken for granted, fear of losing ground. (For starters, check out the word cloud from the memo's first page, as seen above.)
Understand that the base thinks they are losing politically and losing control of the country – and their starting reaction is "worried," "discouraged," "scared," and "concerned" about the direction of the country – and a little powerless to change course. They think Obama has imposed his agenda, while Republicans in DC let him get away with it.Read more about this study below the fold.
Understanding this mindset is crucial to understanding how we've gotten to the situation we're in, with the shutdown over the ACA and the debt limit stalemate. Much as the Republican leadership has painted itself into its own policy corner, the base that's driving them feels equally cornered; they've connected dots between accelerating demographic change and increased government benefits for persons unlike them. Obamacare therefore becomes, for them, the crux of the existential threat to the country they think they know, and has to be stopped at literally any cost.
Republicans shutdown the government to defund or delay Obamacare. This goes to the heart of Republican base thinking about the essential political battle. They think they face a victorious Democratic Party that is intent on expanding government to increase dependency and therefore electoral support. It starts with food stamps and unemployment benefits; expands further if you legalize the illegals; but insuring the uninsured dramatically grows those dependent on government. 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.There's a lot of nuance to the study that can't be easily summarized; for instance, it broke its focus groups (performed in Roanoke, Virginia and Colorado Springs) into party's three legs: the evangelicals, the tea partiers, and the "moderates," and it delves into what exactly it is that each of these groups fears. But it's fascinating to see the GOP base's deep motivations articulated by the participants—and in an unguarded fashion, rather than, say, typical comment-section bluster—and well worth the full read.
And while few explicitly talk about Obama in racial terms, the base supporters are very conscious of being white in a country with growing minorities. Their party is losing to a Democratic Party of big government whose goal is to expand programs that mainly benefit minorities. Race remains very much alive in the politics of the Republican Party.