(CNSNews.com) - American voters used the midterm elections to encourage Republicans to "reflect on how we govern, honestly assess our shortcomings, and propose the best way to move forward," according to House Majority Whip Roy Blunt.
In a speech in Washington D.C., Thursday, Blunt (R-Mo.) called on conservatives to regroup and return to the conservative principles he said got them elected in 1994 - financial responsibility, limited government and protection of traditional values.
Blunt was echoing numerous conservative pundits who since the election have called for Republicans to return to the principles forwarded by President Reagan in the 1980s and credited for the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994, led by Rep. Newt Gingrich.
Blunt praised Republicans for action in recent years to cut taxes - which he said was responsible for the current economic growth - and for making efforts to defend traditional family values. But he criticized the party for increasing spending.
Blunt said that in the last six years, Republicans in power had "failed to create a culture of less-but-better government."
They had also "allowed our efforts to defend traditional values to be defined as little more than politically driven efforts to appease family groups."
Blunt called on his colleagues to "rededicate ourselves to the principles that brought conservatives in."
"We need to be the defenders of the taxpayers, not the defenders of the tax collectors," he said. "We need to be more effective advocates for change" and "not just be critical of what is, but to do that hard work of proposing what can be."
Blunt said a shift of 78,000 votes spread out across the nation "would have changed the outcome." He saw that as a sign that Americans embrace conservative values but rejected the leaders who had stopped pursuing them.
Dani Doane, director of congressional relations at the Heritage Foundation where Blunt delivered his speech, said conservative rhetoric about "losing the way" would not help the bid to achieve conservative principles.
"I think the bigger problem was no one really understood anymore what kind of conservative principles should be governing them," Doane said.
"If nothing else, being in the wilderness ... gives them an opportunity to redefine and reconsider what should be the principles guiding their actions," she added.
Doane said conservatives should spend the next two years fleshing out their principles to bring them back to the American people in the 2008 elections. In the meantime, the Republican minority in Congress should inject conservative principles in legislation whenever possible.
"Whatever [legislation] does end up coming through, there's got to be some conservative alternatives, some conservative amendments, some conservative way to make sure that the conservative principles are ensconced within that," Doane said.
"Even if the bill overall is liberal ... you can still have at least the conservative voice out there," she said.
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