Obstruct = Win ??
But perhaps the lesson from the election is that the GOP can obstruct, be irresponsible and uncooperative, not offer any sound alternatives, and they can still win. That's the message from this progressively-biased writer. If it's true that the GOP can get away with such behavior, what exactly can the Dems do about it? They've been messaging about the GOP obstructing non-stop for 6 years. That's an incredibly direct, simple message, backed up by loads of evidence, yet it made no difference in this election.
Incompetence = Lose ??
So pointing out the flaws of the GOP didn't help the Dems. Did the GOP win because it was able to make a coherent attack on the Dems? Perhaps to a certain extent. Obama's popularity has dropped into the low 40's, being especially hurt by the incompetence of the ACA roll-out. Obama hasn't been able to demonstrate strong problem-solving since. Conflicts in foreign countries have ramped up. It's not Obama's fault, but he didn't prevent or solve them. He didn't get to be the hero by quickly dealing with an Ebola outbreak here because we didn't have one. His reaction to the immigration crisis was to 1) ask for money, and 2) punt on his announced "big change" in immigration policy. Just what problem has Obama solved in the last 9 months? It's no wonder his popularity is stuck below neutral.
The Electorate is just plain tired ??
However, the popularity of the GOP in Congress is even lower. So how did they win? It could be that GOP voters were energized and went to the polls, while Dems were demoralized and stayed home. This often happens six years into a presidency. It happened in 2006, less so in 1986 (when Reagan remained popular) or in 1998 (when the electorate punished the GOP for its impeachment follies).
So in the absence of either party looking good, the out-party fared better because people blamed the in-party. Perhaps that's the explanation. Of course some die-hard progressives are again saying the president was too accommodating, and the Democrats will actually do better as a smaller, more ideological congressional caucus.
I disagree. I doubt there's a single shred of evidence that Democrats fare better at the polls when they're more liberal. Most of the evidence shows otherwise, including the long drought between 1968 and 1991 when only one Democrat was elected president.
Extras. Some exit polling numbers and analysis. Most interesting numbers: 45% didn't think the election was a referendum on Obama. A surprising number of people who are neutral or somewhat opposed to the Tea Party voted Republican. The Tea Party wasn't the boogeyman that it had been in 2012. Dems couldn't successfully run against Tea Party as they did in 2012.