1) That no matter what Fox-Not-News and the Republican leadership claim, this shutdown is all the fault of Republicans.
Which of the two parties has a wingnut base insisting on a shutdown, just to prove their hatred of "Big Government?" That would be the Republicans. The last two times we had a shutdown, it was because of a Republican Congress at odds with a Democratic President (Bill Clinton) that they just happened to despise on a personal level. Every other time - a Republican President with Republican Congress, and a Republican President with a Democratic Congress, and a Democratic President with a Democratic Congress - we've never had a shutdown. It's only in this combination - Democratic President vs. Republican-controlled Congress (even with half of Congress with the House counts) - that we've had this conflict.
2) This impending shutdown was avoidable IF the Republicans were more willing to compromise, instead of their insisting on all the compromises be done by the Democrats.
The Democrats offered compromises each time this impending shutdown loomed over the last few months, and indeed have been offering compromises to the Republicans ever since the Obama era began. Yet each time, the Republicans refused to budge on any key points that they are so eager to protect: for example, any rollback, even a modest one, on the hard Bush-era tax cuts of 2001-03. One of the biggest causes of the current deficit crisis we've got is that Bush-era Tax Cut. And yet every argument about how to fix the deficit doesn't even go anywhere near discussing a tax hike to, you know, ACTUALLY PAY FOR SH-T that needs to get paid now.
Even now, the Republicans are offering an extension for another week while they "debate" the issue further. But that extension includes more budget cuts that Obama and the Democrats are not entirely willing to discuss yet. Especially as those cuts hit social services like Planned Parenthood that would get a majority of Democratic voters in an uproar. And the extension will certainly not resolve the main sticking point: that the Republicans really want ALL of their budget cuts and even MORE tax cuts, and that the Republicans are trying to demolish the Democrats cut by cut, extension by extension. At some point, even the Democrats can't compromise anymore...
3) The shutdown will make a huge hit on the economy.
Lack of spending money for public workers and for people receiving benefits will affect the private sector, especially places like retail, services and repair, etc. And again, this is what Republicans want. Because the Republicans are convinced they can enrage the public against DEMOCRATS who refused to roll over and beg for mercy to accept the Republicans' killing off half the social services that government provides.
4) Republicans are convinced this fight is Win-Win.
Either they get a government shutdown that cripples the economy and destroys peoples' lives... or they get their massive budget cuts to social services, Medicare and Medicaid, schools and education, which cripples the economy and destroys peoples' lives anyway.
In the possibility that Obama and the Democrats grow a spine, and they decide to hold out on the shutdown to force the Republicans to concede, the Far Right that's pushing for this fight is convinced that will serve their purposes. Because the Republicans are convinced at this moment that they will never concede anything, and that by 2012 if the shutdown lasts that long they can rile up enough anger against Obama (and not on themselves) to win the White House. And then they get everything they want. Like I said, in their minds it's Win-Win.
5) If there's a method of forcing the Republicans to the negotiating tables for good-faith efforts to compromise on a budget bill, I've yet to see it.
Lawsuits could be a means of pushing the matter to a solution... but can the Courts intervene in this matter? What legal action can be taken to compel Congress to do what needs to be done? And who would have standing to force the issue?
As it stands right now, we're screwed. I don't see the Republicans giving an inch to resolve this matter, and they seem eager to fulfill their wingnut agenda of killing of New Deal-era social services once and for all.
The best thing I can hope for now is that enough Americans are aware enough that this is truly all the fault of the Republicans and that the vast majority of this nation rises up to protest what the GOP wingnuts are doing to us.