Peter Suderman has a very sharp post on the GOP's acute malaise:
Why hold your tongue when the party nominates a lackluster candidate? This tendency is no small part of what allows a problematic candidate like Palin to be nominated. The strategy is supposed to help at the polls, but what good is that if the candidates are incoherent and under-qualified? You end up in a mad spiral: If do you manage to elect them, you then have to defend them, even when they do and say things that aren’t conservative.
That makes conservatism less appealing. It also results in conservative advocates who, by virtue of applying too much gusto to their defenses, end up celebrating the worst traits of the candidates. That, in turn, makes for steadily worse candidates. Eventually, you reach the situation we may be in now: An incoherent and out of date set of ideas, an unappealing party, no trustworthy leaders, and few electable candidates.
(Hat tip: Larison)