The 2010 elections showed how the voting public is more volatile than ever.
From 1954 until 1980, for example, not once did either chamber of Congress change party control. But starting in the 1980s, everything changed.
In the 15 elections since 1980, at least one chamber of Congress has changed party control seven times. Nearly every second election, at least one chamber puts a new majority in power.
The public, it seems, likes change more than ever, and that constitutes a lesson for the GOP wave that has swept into office. Change isn't just the campaign mantra of Barack Obama anymore: It's a ballot-box constant.
Never miss a local story.
Elections would be easier to predict if candidates could glean what the public wants and give it to them. But when the public keeps moving the target, the political class has a very hard time.
In the case of national elections, the voting public looks remarkably fickle — a Democratic landslide in 2008 followed immediately in 2010 by a massive repudiation of that mandate.
Kansas voters are unpredictable, too, even if the 2010 elections represent a return to the default form of voting we expect in such a red state.
Republicans in Kansas stayed home in 2010, voting straight party in a once-in-many-generations show of solidarity with the party. But that one-election commitment is not a long-term guarantee.
You would expect a state like Kansas to vote strongly for Republicans all the time, but the GOP had not swept all state constitutional offices and the Statehouse since 1964. Democrats can win in Kansas, and that speaks to the volatility of the Kansas electorate.
Since Gov. William Avery left office in 1967, Kansas has had five Democratic and only three Republican governors. Party loyalty is only so strong, and the right message or candidate can sway some Republicans to vote Democratic.
The telling aspect of the Kansas electorate's volatility is that unaffiliated voters make up the second-largest voting bloc in Kansas, at 28 percent of registered voters. With the GOP at 44 percent and the Democrats third with 27 percent, party affiliation is not enough to win any statewide elections in this state.
Republicans not only kept the base at home in 2010, but they attracted unaffiliated voters as well. Those same unaffiliated voters who chose Democrats Kathleen Sebelius, Paul Morrison and Joan Finney over Republican rivals in previous elections went with the GOP this time around.
This trend isn't just important to get elected. There are serious lessons to learn for governing. Newly elected Republicans should not confuse winning with a mandate. Obama probably would say the same thing.
Just because you won with big numbers does not mean that the public supports everything you do, or that it won't turn on you in two short years. Keeping your finger on the public pulse is the only way to ensure that support continues, and it can erode quickly.