Now comes the call for Republicans to abandon most of their principles in the quest for lost votes. Never mind that Romney only said he was “severely conservative” because Romney would say just about anything to any audience.

That’s part of the trouble. Republican candidates up and down the line have been content to mouth every Reaganesque cliche for 24 years now.

The deeds have rarely matched the rhetoric. So people no longer believe the rhetoric.

Instead of “positioning” themselves with voters, Republicans would do well to turn off the TV and radio, study some history, and take a good, long look at the world around them without ideological blinders.

Margaret Thatcher, writing for the Telegraph of London shortly after her Conservative Party took its second consecutive drubbing in the 1975 parliamentary elections, urged her fellow Tories to reassess their situation with sobriety and without rancor.

“Size is not all, any more than economic growth is all. Even efficiency is not enough,” Thatcher wrote. “People come first — their needs, their hopes, their choice, their values and ideals.”

In exit polls Tuesday, one in five voters said the most important factor in making a choice was that the candidate “cares about people like me.” Those voters chose Obama by a margin of four to one.

Is it any wonder why? Thatcher also wrote that she believed the majority of British people who voted for socialism in the 1970s still believed in freedom. But, she added, “if they are no more than cash-grabbing anarchists, then we must all bear some of the responsibility and try to show them the way back to sanity. But I do not believe they are.”

Sixty million Americans didn’t vote for Obama because they’re “cash-grabbing anarchists.” But the danger is that far too many Americans are becoming comfortable with an ever-expansive government.

Persuading them they’re in error is a mighty challenge.

Of course, the reality is that whatever Republicans need to do to convince Americans to trust them again, it won’t take four years.

Sorry, this is a generational fight.

Ben Boychuk is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.

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