The largest symptom of this is a vicious denial of their nature as a minority, and violent assertions that they are "fighting" for a populist cause, not a shrinking section of the population motivated primarily by bigotry. In spite of all electoral trends, polling data, and other evidence that suggests a slow but steady decline of the current Republican alliance between social conservatives, libertarian neo-liberals, and imperialist neo-conservatives, the emerging new right wing order imagines itself as the champion of the people. Why else do conservatives feel empowered to threaten centrist Blue Dogs? As the New York Times has printed:
So Michael Steele, Republican Party chairman, and Dick Armey, former House Republican majority leader, have already shifted their focus to the 2010 mid-term elections and beyond, hoping to use the health bill to galvanize their base and fill campaign coffers.An admirable strategy, if they hadn't pulled out every last gimmick in the last election trying to stem the tide of the anti-Republican backlash. They have drained every iota of the potentially-republican-voting angry conservative base, and in the process decimated the political landscape in much of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains - all of the conservative third parties have disappeared into a reliable Republican fold already. Beyond having mined their ideological base to exhaustion, they have become so reliant on reactionaries that they have alienated a huge section of the centrist vote and irreparably lost an entire generation. Roughly two thirds of the voters my age support same-sex marriage, and that's not including those that support or prefer a watered down civil union compromise. Beyond even more entrenched openness that Republicans shy away from on issues of race, gender, or sexuality, the coming political battle over the legal definition of marriage shows a Republican policy that will lose any significant support from the growing "millennial" demographic.
Beyond all of these more detailed concerns over how such an electoral strategy is doomed to abysmal failure, the majority of Americans want health care. Every poll in the past ten years has shown this issue as a growing concern, and now, with a majority supporting a public option and the Obama administration leading congressional Republicans by 15% (and growing) on this issue, the Republicans think they can claim exclusive rights to a popular movement.
Moreover, this older ideological frame the Republicans have returned to embracing, that of a persecuted minority against the liberal establishment, loses all its credibility with this newer argument - that Republicans are the true Americans. Republicans are casting themselves as the majority and sole legitimate heir apparent of American political thought, and at the same time, a hated group hunted by the dark shadowy liberal conspiracy (as if we were that organized). It harkens back to the same inconsistency slacktivist points out time and time again - that America is the shining (Christian) city on a hill and yet also Babylon, only instead of the religious dualism of America as Christian example to all and fallen nation, it occupies a nationalistic frame of mind, where America is righteous and courageous against the evils of the world and yet poisoned from within by traitors of various stripes, false Americans all.
While the Republicans are clearly burning their bridges now, they still have considerable power - enough to disrupt almost any legislation in the Senate, a nearly packed Supreme Court, a surprisingly passive Democratic counterbalance in the White House and to a lesser extent the Congress, and a shocking hold on the media. This is the Republican party at its most dangerous, because they have just begun their fall from power, and they still have the potential to strike back. The perfect motives have arisen just as a palingenic and ultranationalist strain (read: pseudo-fascist) ideology has moved from the background into the forefront of their dreams of an American future. The next few years are going to be the hardest and most dangerous, and while the Republicans are down and are losing face, this may be their dangerous, for that precise reason.
EDIT: Yes, I know, this. Is any one really surprised that the Dixiecrats are angry at the Democrats? Angry enough to not vote with them on anything of consequence? Angry enough to leave the party? This is just the last of the fallout of the party realignment started with the Southern Strategy during the Nixon administration. As in, nearly forty years ago.
Additionally, the data about popular support for a public option is from here.