It is important not to forget the positive in today’s situation: After all, Republicans not only maintain control of the House of Representatives, they hold no fewer than 30 governorships. Still, the resounding Republican midterm victory in 2010 now seems more like an aberration—a temporary backlash to presidential overreach—than evidence of an upward trend. To the contrary, it is the negatives that are politically fundamental.

This is not just bad news for the Republican Party; it is bad news for the country. As much as at any time in recent history, America needs a strong, vibrant party on the right to speak for the civilizing ideal of limited government. Barack Obama has put in place an agenda of unreconstructed progressivism that is at war, not only with Reaganism, but also with Clintonism. He has exacerbated a massive fiscal imbalance, added a poorly designed entitlement that further destabilizes the health sector, and sounded an uncertain trumpet of global leadership. If Republicans urgently need to recalibrate, and they do, it is because the stakes are so high.

Among some party loyalists, there is a natural tendency to maintain that the GOP is simply suffering from a “communications problem,” that if only Republicans spoke more loudly, more insistently, and with greater purity and passion, they would broaden their appeal and proceed to sweep national elections. But that counsel, appealing as it might be to a shrinking segment of the electorate, is surely not adequate to present circumstances. More is needed than pumping up the volume.