The Republican party until recently has been a three-piece coalition. The first piece is the cultural conservatives-- primarily evangelicals who support "family values." They are the pro-life, pro-heterosexual marriage, anti-gay marriage voters. This is the Sarah Palin branch of the party and still the most loyal.
The second piece of the coalition is the muscular neo-conservative wing. They are pro-military voters. Since 9/11, they have been willing to create massive increases in government power to combat terrorism. They not only believe that America should use force to promote democracy around the world but that we have a moral imperative to. The Iraq war has completely discredited the neo-conservatives. The fast, cheap war of liberation we were promised never materialized. Instead we got a long, bloody, and expensive occupation. After 5 years and nearly a trillion dollars, we may be able to leave Iraq as a highly divided semi-stable country.
Finally, there are the small-government fiscal conservatives. Over the past eight years the Bush administration has managed to turn a budget surplus into a huge deficit. Two expensive foreign wars have drained our treasury. While these moves have bothered the fiscal conservatives, they could be explained as necessary consequences of 9/11. But in the past few days the Bush administration has destroyed the Republican moral authority to small government and sound fiscal policy. The federal reserve just spent $250 billion to nationalize our banking industry, along with another $500 million to be spent buying up bad loans from large financial institutions. A president which only a year ago claimed we couldn't afford to (or just shouldn't) spend $35 billion to provide health care for kid is willing to spend a trillion dollars bailing out AIG, Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, and the financial sector.
The Republican party has not just failed independent and moderate voters but its own party faithful as well. Many planks of its platform have been discredited or abandoned. While evangelical voters remain loyal, they are neither numerous enough nor geographically diverse enough to support a national party on their own. It is known that the Republican party is headed for its second straight election of huge losses. What is not known is how long the Republicans will be lost wandering in the minority party wilderness. The Republican party needs a Moses to create a new coalition to lead them into the promised land. Who their Moses will be and what commandments he will bring will be the political question of the early 21st century.