As both E.J. Dionne and Harold Meyerson (here) point out in op-ed columns, the strength of the Republican right wing in the House rests on gerrymandered congressional districts, ones that were drawn by Republican state legislatures after the 2010 census to ensure safe seats for right-wing members.
House Speaker John Boehner’s approach has been driven by fear: fear of the most right-wing House members, fear of rabid talk-show hosts, fear of the Frankenstein monster of fanatical organizations the party has relied upon to gin up the faithful.And:
The government is shut for only one reason: Boehner wants to keep his job. This is not a sufficient cause for throwing hundreds of thousands of other people out of theirs. “This is the conservative right versus the reckless right,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Budget Committee Democrat. “The country should not become the victim of the Republican civil war.”If this is a Republican civil war, it is one that the somewhat sane part of the Republican caucus seems to be losing. The right-wing House Republicans are not simply crazy and dangerous -- though they definitely are those things -- they also have a deep contempt for the democratic process. Faced with a law they don't like but couldn't roll back through ordinary channels, they have resorted to doing an end run around majority rule and risking bringing the country back into recession in order to further their policy preferences.
Various theorists of democracy have worried about the tyranny of the majority. This is the reverse: the tyranny of the minority.
(Note: post edited slightly after initial posting)