Although it’s not their intent, Republicans are on a fast track to handing the November midterm congressional election to the Democrats.

The real canary in the coal mine was the March special election surprise in Pennsylvania’s 18th District, where underdog Democrat Conor Lamb upset Republican Rick Saccone in a district Donald Trump won by 20 points in 2016.

This electoral outcome would have been unthinkable a few short years ago. This district was so historically red that the previous GOP incumbent, Tim Murphy, didn’t even face a Democratic opponent in 2014 or 2016.

So, what happened? Republicans stayed home and Democrats showed up. A lot of them.

According to a Cook Political Report, Democratic stronghold Allegheny County saw a voter turnout at 67 percent of 2016 levels. But Republican-leaning Westmoreland County saw turnout at only 60 percent of 2016 levels.

With control of the House, Senate and White House, Republicans have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create an enduring legacy of free markets, lower taxes, shrinking debts and economic growth.

The Pennsylvania special election results should serve as a political warning shot for Republicans everywhere. It reminds me of an old axiom used by conservative activists: When we act like us, we win. When we act like them, we lose.

When Republicans act like Democrats, Republican voters stay home. If the GOP wants to lose its majorities in the House and Senate in November, the playbook is simple: Stay the course. Keep doing what you’re doing.

Here are four ways Republicans can guarantee a loss in the midterm elections:

1. Ignore regular order, continue governing by manufactured crisis.

In the first quarter of this year, Congress passed two massive spending bills that required last-minute votes before lawmakers even had time to read the legislation. So much for the 2010 Republican promise to post all legislation at least 72 hours before a vote.

Republicans justified the dysfunctional process as a “necessary evil” to avoid a government shutdown. But the reality is, there would be no fiscal emergency if Congress simply returned to regular order and followed the annual appropriations process as it’s written.

2. Pass giant spending bills that waste money we don’t have.

Since Republicans took full control of Congress in 2015, the national debt has grown by almost $3 trillion. The latest congressional spending spree will cost taxpayers $1.3 trillion, busting the 2015 Budget Control Act spending caps and further increasing our national debt to $22 trillion. Which side is the “party of fiscal responsibility?”

3. Blink on the votes that matter, and stand on principle for the votes that don’t.

After forcing through a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package, House Republicans are thinking about introducing a balanced budget amendment later this year. Don’t get me wrong, a balanced budget amendment would be great. However, this proposal is little more than another empty promise made by GOP leadership after – yet again – disappointing its most active voting base, fiscal conservatives.

Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority vote for passage. Taking a realistic look at past votes on similar proposals and the current composition of Congress, the chances for passage are highly doubtful.

What’s more likely is that Republican leadership will do some damage control after passing two massive spending bills during a highly competitive midterm election year. “Sure, we folded when it counted, but we took a safely principled stand on a balanced budget amendment destined to fail. That’s not nothing, right?” 

4. Demean fiscal conservatives and the legislators who represent them.

When Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., objected to a budget deal that included $300 billion in new spending over two years, he was ridiculed and attacked by his colleagues in the Senate. Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, called Paul’s efforts “grossly irresponsible” and accused him of “wasting everybody's time.”

Former Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, recently belittled the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., in a Vanity Fair interview, calling him “an idiot” and saying, “I can’t tell you what makes him tick.”

To Republican voters, the only thing worse than completely abandoning fiscal conservatism is holding a general attitude of disdain toward the people still fighting the fight.

With control of the House, Senate and White House, Republicans have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create an enduring legacy of free markets, lower taxes, shrinking debts and economic growth.

It would be a shame to lose this opportunity because Republicans forgot what principles got them elected in the first place.