While there have already been several, excellent reports on the election results, this will bring out some additional perspectives. The most significant, common conclusion already mentioned is that the Republican Party has generally strayed from its basic principles.
Individuals will always differ in their thinking, behaviors, and desires. However, there must remain an underlying cohesion based on the foundation of Republican principles. Lacking this adherence to these principles, the party inevitably drifts into a conglomeration of individuals with many straying off in their own directions with less and less adherence, or even concerns, for these basic principles.
This straying and drifting is always accompanied with self-deluding rationalizations that support the individuals ego that he or she is doing the "right thing" in whatever way they are straying. While doing this may persuade some of the voters temporarily, it frequently requires more and more straying in order to continue, until it all reaches a point of collapse. Abraham Lincoln, our first Republican president, commented on this with his well known, "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time." Not as well known is his equally relevant statement, "I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong." While Lincoln was speaking as a politician, the last phrase is a universal one which applies, also, to the recent voters who parted with the Republican Party when they went wrong.
One important and crucial dynamic in our politics is that, with ever-increasing political polarization, the individual politician, in the eyes of the political power structures, has become less important than the "R" or "D" after his or her name. In this climate, unfortunately, it becomes ultimately important to do, or say, whatever will give a majority of "Rs" or "Ds" in order to gain power. It is at this point that the current political situation compounds the pressures. Since the bases of both the "Rs" and "Ds" is essentially equal, then it is the middle, the Independent and undecided voters, that are aggressively sought after. While our early politicians simply purchased kegs of whiskey out of their own pockets to persuade voters, today's politicians are far more crafty, and have learned that they can use the voter's own money to buy things for them. While this is traditionally called "pork," one's own Republican politicians will always rationalize that they are only doing it to bring back to constituents their "fair share" of tax money that is being abused by all those other politicians and their "pork." While doing nice things with other people's money whenever possible is basic to Democratic aims, it is essentially contrary to Republican principles to thus abuse taxpayers' money, unless there is a very clear and basic necessity for it.
When all the above is combined with Republican politicians publicly pronouncing favorably about, and publicly associating themselves with, Democratic politicians, or behaving in other ways as Democrats would, they are then giving voters the appearance that, "There's not a dime's bit of difference between the two parties." The result, as recently happened, is disgusting one's true base into not voting at all, and making Independents and undecideds consider that it would be better for them to vote for real Democrats, rather than fake ones.
While some of the worst Republican offenders in these ways managed to squeak through by using the above tactics, they have simply furthered their own careers by masquerading as Democratic-light. The consequent disgust in the Republican base led many to stay home, and even some to vote Democratic. The result was an across the board loss on election day by many Republicans and the consequent weakening of the Republican Party.
Republicans who won their elections without becoming fake, or junior, Democrats, did so by keeping to Republican principles, and focusing on serving their constituents to their fullest, rather than on themselves. This is exactly what many Republican politicians must re-learn in much the same way that Vince Lombardi, to prod his champion Green Bay Packers to concentrate on the game’s fundamentals, held up a football and said, "Gentlemen, this is a football."