Here you see the an autopsy of a political defeat. The reason for the defeat: denial.
I happen to like politics and even though I do have a particular political leaning I also happen to like a good contest. I think it serves America best when there is one and my personal opinion is the Presidential Election of 2008 may have turned into one. It didn't (objectively speaking) and the post election apologetics constitute an interesting post mortem.
I understand that the party in power usually gets the blame when things are bad. It happened to Jimmy Carter in 1980, it happened to George H.W. Bush in 1992 and while partisans don't like it, it's fair. And there is an element of that same situation nearly 30 years later. But I think there are some other elements at work as well.
For the most part, the Republican Party, as has been stated repeatedly is badly in need of a make-over. It shouldn't morph into 'Democratic Party lite', but the GOP lost because it is woefully out of touch with America as it is now.
The party of Lincoln no longer appeals to minorities. While arguments can be made for government growing too large, cries for smaller government are interpreted by African-Americans, Hispanics and others as eliminating the supports still necessary to redress issues of poverty and racism. Republicans cannot continue to blithely (and inaccurately) insist that we have reached an era where every man is 'judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin', its on its way, but its not there yet. This begins to be an excuse for not making serious efforts to provide 'outreach' to minorities that go beyond displays of affection and acceptance of cultural differences or weak apologies for being on the wrong side of the vote on the Martin Luther King National Holiday.
African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans have to have a serious voice in developing the party platform. There were 36 African-American delegates at their convention, that doesn't inspire confidence that they are welcoming the presence of those who look or think differently from those who currently constitute the majority. And yes I know, the Democratic Party has what is commonly referred to as 'quotas' when it comes to their delegation. Equality after hundreds of years of inequality only comes through intentionality.
When people mention the difference between the two major parties, rarely do they mention the picture that is consistently presented to the country. Think about the convention: the diversity of the Democratic Party was breathtaking - it looked like America. Sorry, the Republican Convention didn't. America is no longer white, graying, upper middle class. As long as the GOP insists that this is the future of our country, it will continue to risk irrelevance. They simply cannot make tangential overtures to black Americans; speak in the most vicious language regarding undocumented immigrants, allow pundits and operatives to publicly denigrate the poor and say, 'Well, we tried, they just aren't interested!'
Republicans have to find a way to exorcise the ghost of Lee Atwater. The mean spirited, win at any cost, say anything no matter how hurtful type of campaigning ultimately has the attractiveness of a 10 car pile up: you may not be able to turn away, but that doesn't mean you want to be a part of one.
Republicans didn't lose because of the economic downturn - we expect our president to be able to handle crisis;
Republicans cannot continue to insist that Sara Palin didn't cost votes - America saw that she wasn't qualified and rejected the idea of her becoming president at a moment of national tragedy;
Republicans didn't lose because of George Bush; didn't McCain continue to say (albeit rather late) that he wasn't George Bush;
Republicans lost because they had no new ideas for a new America. Everything piled on top of that.
There are legitimate alternatives to Democratic ideas and there are opportunities for Republicans to make themselves attractive to a post-Reagan era America, neither include fear and mean spiritedness. The GOP has to find them.
You can argue that the Democrats ideas weren't that new either - but ultimately you have to come to grips with the fact that they won this election, whether by design or default.
That argument won't help next time either.