In November 2006, the GOP lost 30 House seats and six Senate seats, forfeiting its majorities in both chambers. Two years later, voters handed another 21 House seats and seven Senate seats to the Democrats. In the presidential race, voters chose Barack Obama over John McCain, 53 percent to 46 percent. In the 2008 exit poll, 75 percent of voters said the country was seriously on the wrong track, and 51 percent agreed that "government should do more to solve problems," while only 43 percent said "government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals." That was a shift from the 2004 exit poll, in which voters had preferred less government by a margin of 49 percent to 46 percent. Self-identified moderates, who had split evenly on more vs. less government in 2004, favored more government in the 2008 exit poll by a margin of 55 percent to 39 percent.Here's the kicker:
So Boehner, Cantor, and McConnell took those results to heart, right? They listened to the voters and changed course?
Don't be silly. They did just the opposite. They stuck to their principles and rejected partisan interpretations of the election. On Nov. 9, 2008, Cantor went on Fox News Sunday to declare:
This was not some kind of realignment of the electorate, not some kind of shift of the American people toward some style of European social big government type of philosophy. ... You can look at some of the things that people are upset about, whether it was the latest in the financial crisis, whether it was the handling of the response to Hurricane Katrina, or whether it was the continued ratcheting up of federal spending in Washington. … It really is not about left versus right. It's not about conservative versus liberal. … [The people] want to see a government that works for them. And we still believe very strongly that it is our commonsense conservative principles of a limited government, of lower taxes, of reining in federal spending that will provide the type of solutions to the challenges that face American people.
When FNS host Chris Wallace pointed out that voters had shifted from an even partisan split in the 2004 exit poll to a seven-point preference for Democrats in 2008, Cantor used the same empathy dodge for which he now chastises Obama. "We have to demonstrate, number one, that we understand what people are going through," the congressman pleaded.
Two weeks later, Boehner went on the same program and was asked why he should remain in charge of the House GOP after his party "lost more than 50 seats in the last two elections." He replied:
If I thought that I was to blame for those losses, I wouldn't have run for this job. And I can tell you my colleagues would not have reelected me. We've got a long way to go. The American people have issues. They've got concerns. We need solutions, solutions to the issues that the American people care about that are built on our principles.
McConnell took the same steadfast view. In his speech this week, he explained his party's thinking:
While the media was still groping to define the 2008 election, Republicans were taking stock. We knew the principles that had made our party great were the same principles that had made America great, and that if we were going to solve the problems of the day, we would have to embrace and explain those principles, not discard or conceal them. So we renewed our commitment to our core principles—win, lose, or draw. If we had not done this, the administration would never suffer the consequences for pushing policies Americans opposed, and Americans wouldn't have a clear alternative. And that is why this, in my view, was the single most important thing Republicans in Congress did to prepare the ground for Tuesday's election. By sticking together in principled opposition to policies we viewed as harmful, we made it perfectly clear to the American people where we stood. And we gave voters a real choice on Election Day.
With the willing acquiesence of the establishment and the support of the billionaire plutocrats, they not only held the line, they doubled down and went even more radical right before our very eyes. And dues to a number of factors, some not entirely in their control, the Democrats lost to them.