First is gerrymandering. Since race is one of the best predictors of voting behavior, US House congressional seats have been manipulated largely on racial grounds.
Politicians at state level carve constituencies into odd and unlikely shapes, shuffling around various racial groups to protect incumbents.
Both parties do this when they have the chance, but Republicans, who run more state houses, have had more chance and have undertaken the task with much zeal and guile.
As a result, last year the Democrats won more votes nationally for Congress, but still got fewer seats, giving the Republicans who shut down the government a fragile mandate. It also means incumbents need not fear losing their seats, leaving them able to act out.
Second is the perceived beneficiaries of government spending. Republicans are more likely to regard intervention as being to support minorities rather than to support the poor.
This goes not only for food stamps and welfare, but also for Obamacare — which was the issue that initially sparked the shutdown.
“Obamacare is a racial flashpoint for many evangelical and Tea Party voters,” Greenberg writes.
Their despair is largely rooted in the assumption that by championing programs that disproportionately help minorities, Obama is effectively buying votes and securing a growing tranche of the electorate who will for evermore be dependent on government.
One participant, echoing the views of many, said: “Every minority group wants to say they have the right to something, and they don’t. It’s life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It doesn’t say happiness. You get to be alive and you get to be free. The rest of it’s just a pursuit ... you’re not guaranteed happiness. You have to work for it.”
Finally, there is Obama — the black son of an African immigrant and white mother — who stands as an emblem for all this unease, personifying, in their minds, not only their political impotence today, but their demographic irrelevance tomorrow.
The word they are most likely to use to describe him is “liar.”
Yet their hostility goes beyond his policies and pronouncements to a deeply rooted suspicion of his authenticity.
“[There] is a sense of him being foreign, non-Christian, Muslim — and they wonder what really are his motives for the changes he is advancing,” Greenberg said.
As he moves into his second term, there is now an elision in the Republican mind between what they think he is (an immigrant, a fraudster, a non-American) and what they think he does (assist immigrants and fraudsters in contravention of US ideals).