If conservatives launched balloons in the air when the results of the 2014 midterm elections came back, it didn’t take long for the helium to seep out. Before long, it became abundantly clear that all of those grand promises from the GOP leadership were just so much smoke. According to Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, the mandate from voters was not to attack the polices of President Obama, but rather to demonstrate that they could govern effectively. But by any metric, the record so far has been abysmal. It’s early days still, but this Congress has only hurt Republican chances of securing the White House in 2016.

“There have been a couple of stumbles,” admitted Boehner in the understatement of the year. Only in session for three weeks, the GOP-led Congress has made bad move after bad move, plagued by Republican infighting at every turn. We’ve gone from gridlock to hyperspeed, but it’s not clear how this switch benefits the American people. It’s certainly not clear how it benefits conservatives who want to see a change in the country’s direction.

It’s been on failure after another for Republicans. They’ve beaten a retreat on border legislation, backed down from sensible restrictions on abortion, botched the Keystone Pipeline bill, and they’ve all-but-abandoned the fight against Obama’s executive amnesty.

Now What?

For the last six years, Republicans have battled against Democrat initiatives with anemic results. Now in power, they don’t appear to be any more effective than they were on defense. Instead of finding clever ways to stop Obama’s worst policies, they’ve chosen to make sweeping symbolic statements destined to die on the president’s desk. That’s if they even get there; McConnell’s Senate has even less conservative backbone than Boehner’s House.

The problems are many, but there are two that loom largest. One, Republican leadership is more concerned about presenting a picture of compromise than they are about satisfying conservative voters. Two, they are ignoring the good they can do right now so they can set up a White House win in 2016. Both are tragic mistakes. The liberal media, faced with the unappealing story of a nation rejecting the president, decided to invent the narrative that voters just wanted Congress to get along. As for the White House, well, that’s a clear case of counting chickens before they hatch. And if the conservative base realizes that they were played for fools in the last election, they may not be particularly interested in coming out to vote next year. Especially if the best the GOP can do is Romney, Part III.

Meanwhile, the media has been given a New Year’s present. They can run story after story about Republican infighting, failed bills, and congressional ineptitude, giving the low-information crowd the very message Boehner and McConnell wanted to avoid: the GOP doesn’t know how to govern.

When Republicans get it through their heads that they don’t have to appeal to liberals to win elections, then maybe we’ll see a new day in America. Until then, the 2014 midterms may as well have been canceled.