One of the things I’ve argued in other threads is that making your ideology dominant is more important than winning elections. Since we have a two party system and the parties always adjust to political reality to keep things somewhat even, you don’t see this dominance so much in terms of political power. You see it in what is possible for the parties to do.
The problem with the Obama Presidency and even the demographic changes Democrats are counting on is that it hasn’t shifted the country to the left. We’re still living in the political reality Ronald Reagan wrought. So even now, it doesn’t matter much if Republicans win elections, as long as Democrats are still forced to concede the victory of the Reagan Revolution. Although Republicans will still win elections, simply because they don’t actually have to change their ideology to do it. What they need to change is their rhetoric, which needlessly alienates a lot of Americans.
The same thing was asked of the Democrats after three straight crushing losses and they responded by recognizing reality and moving to the right. The problem the GOP has isn’t the same, since they don’t actually have to move to the left(yet).
The public tends to be very forgiving towards a party that inherits problems from the party that just got kicked out. So long as the new guys are trying to fix the problems. What they did instead was rush to get as much of their normal agenda passed as possible, from health care to climate change. After the stimulus, the focus on the economy was just dropped, and so voters rightfully felt the Democrats weren’t working on the problem they were elected to fix.
The six-year itch is real and hard to avoid. Losing power after only two years has happened to the Democrats more than once and it’s because they try to get the wish list passed without regard for what the public is actually concerned about at the time.