On a macro perspective, it seems that there are variety of reasons the Republicans "lost" the election. I saw they lost the election on a macro perspective rather than the Democrats "winning" on the basis that the Democrats had no platform of substance outside of not being Republicans. in no particular order, here are some key items (and these primarily apply to the house Republicans):
- The Republicans became the party of government. Many exit polls were showing that 11% more voters identified the Republicans as the "party of big government" than the Democrats. There is much validity that the house Republicans became a rubber stamp of the President's "conservative welfare state": No Child Left Behind, Medicare prescription drug benefit are the most obvious. This is indicative of the house leadership, particularly Tom DeLay. Tom DeLay is no conservative, and ran his position as house leader in such a manner that would make Tip O'Neil proud - using earmarks and other pork to get legislation passed. From 1998-2006, outside of taxes and welfare reform, it becomes difficult to think of any substantially conservative (in terms of limited government) initiative passed by the House. They were more content to featherbed, bribe constituents with entitlements, rather than reduce the scope of government. This covers one of my basic tenants of nominally conservative parties, they lose their raison d'etre when they stop being conservative. Or to use another analogy, if I want a big government party, I'll vote for the real thing in the Democrats.
- Corruption. While in historic terms, the Republicans have not been as bad as some other congresses, the fact that they have an "R" after their name means they are held to a different standard than Democrats. Just look at the difference in the coverage of Foley, DeLay, Ney, etc versus the equally bad acts of Jefferson, Reid, etc. and how the press gave the Dems a pass on their "culture of corruption" accusations. Republicans need to be extra vigilant on these matters, and immediately remove potential problems long before primary/election season. Becoming more proactive on the ethics front would have inoculated them on many of these charges.
- Iraq. It was an issue, but not necessarily for the reasons everybody thinks. To some degree, this election reflected the mood on the events in Iraq, but it was not an anti-war vote as many on the left would think. If you look at the breakdown of people of don't think that things are not going well in Iraq, I would wager that 1 in 3 are just plain "anti-war" and the other 2/3rds want a more aggressive resolution to the problem. I think that on a big picture, there needs to be an effort to show a lot of the good things that are happening outside of Baghdad: the reconstruction efforts, the functioning local governments and growing businesses, etc to offset the media's obsession with the carnage in a localized area. The press has been negligent in its lack of balance on this coverage. Republicans should have spent a lot more time constantly educating the public on everything that was going on in Iraq the past 3 years to counteract the Dems/MSM.
- A do-nothing congress. This congress would talk a lot about taking on big issues like immigration and entitlement reform and would do nothing. While on many fronts, doing nothing is better than doing something, the perspective of inaction without explanation infuriates many voters and increases the anti-incumbent sentiment.
So, what to do about it? What is obvious is probably what they won't do. Remember that they are the party of limited government and govern on that principle. Elect leaders who believe in limited government who can effectively communicate the need for limited government to the electorate constantly.