There's a very large segment of the American populace that is out of touch with reality.
They still live in the days of the 1950s when, in their eyes, America singlehandedly won the war against the Nazis, liberated the Jews, stopped the Japanese, instituted the Marshall Plan, etc.
They don't realize it's been 60+ years since we acted particularly benevolently, and that all of the years since then have been filled with war after war of self-interest. Even if we were fighting to protect smaller groups in Vietnam and Korea, we were still trying to control the shape those countries would take and ensure they emerged from their civil wars as capitalist nations. This was due to our fear of communism which was ultimately self-centered; we didn't want to deal with closed markets and we wanted to stop the expansion of communism out of fear of monolithic communism. Iraq and Afghanistan are similar, only motivated by fear of terrorism and Muslim theocracy (which is a bit more justified than fear of Communism I'll grant).
America has burned through its political capital. Yet people still think we're owed for what past generations did. A lot of Americans have this myth of exceptionalism, they believe our nation is better than the rest of the world, no one does it better than an American can, and that there's just something special about our populace and way of life.
The gap has closed as we exported our ideals and economics throughout the globe. There are places in the world that educate better than us, take care of their citizens better than us, rank happier based on statistical surveys, etc.
This is still a great nation to live in, but we need to accept that it has its flaws and needs to be repaired (and in many ways brought into the 21st century). Talking points and rhetoric don't help anyone, the Republicans are most guilty of sticking to the most antiquated of ideas.
What we, as a country really need, is a modern conservative ideology based on rationality and logic not a pathological, evangelical fear of government or Christian morality. We don't need to personify government and view it as evil to be opposed to it. That low-brow rhetoric started by Ronald Reagan has taken its ultimate manifestation in Sarah Palin; lets face it, it's batshit insane.
I believe in as little government intervention as is possible. I want to be free to live my life and do as I please as long as I'm not hurting anyone else. This is the basic credo on which all of American politics should be built. Lets face it, the Democrats want to protect people from themselves in many instances--as do the Republicans. If we want a real conservative party to emerge, it needs to toss that out the window, stop trying to legislate morality, and truly rethink the problems facing our country and their approach to politics.
This will not happen until the Conservatives grow a pair and throw the religious right under the bus; as they continue to shrink and atheists continue to grow, the chances of this increases none the less.