No real answers in this column, but a decent job of laying out the problems. Bush never was a "Reagan Conservative" and in many ways, neither was Reagan--the legend took on conservative luster over time. Reagan had his share of tax increases (FICA in '82, Income in '86), he certainly didn't have a balanced budget and Sandra Day O'Conner certainly wasn't a very conservative Judge. All that said, Reagan is my favorite conservative figure--he just happened to be human.
Bush did "No Child" with Teddy Kennedy (getting the feds in education), perscription drug, signed campaign finance, Sarbanes/Oxley and worked on immigration reform that was awful close to amnesty. Throw in the stimulus packages and a few other things and Bush did an awful lot of "triangulation" just like Slick Willie. The difference is that the MSM and the Democrats aren't going to give a Republican any "points" just because he does what one would think they would like -- Democrats HATE Republicans and it IS personal! "Policy" is great, but Democrats are driven by POWER, a policy that kills people or destroys their lives is FINE if it gets Democrats in POWER!!
Apparently, such was not so with at least some Texas Democrats, and Bush got the false impression that he could work reasonably with Democrats. VERY bad idea in Washington! I don't know if Bush learned that lesson, but the rest of us sure ought to have! It appears however that such is not the case:
In one corner, there are a large number of bright, mostly younger, self-styled reformers with a diverse -- and often contradictory -- set of proposals to win back middle-class voters and restore the GOP's status as "the party of ideas" (as the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan put it).
In another corner are self-proclaimed traditional conservatives and Reaganites, led most notably by Rush Limbaugh, who believe that the party desperately needs to get back to the basics: limited government,low taxes and strong defense.
What is fascinating is that both camps seem implicitly to agree that the real challenge lurks in how to account for the Bush years. For the young Turks and their older allies -- my National Review colleagues Ramesh Ponnuru, Yuval Levin and David Frum, the Atlantic's Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, New York Times columnist David Brooks et al -- the problem is that Bush botched the GOP's shot at real reform. For the Limbaugh crowd, the issue seems to be that we've already tried this reform stuff -- from both Bush and McCain -- and look where it's gotten us.
So how would one "reform" and deal with Democrats when all they want is you out of Washington, and don't really care what it costs them, their consituency or the world in general in blood and treasure as long as they end up in power? What part of what has happened to Bush and McCain is it that the "reformers" still haven't understood? They want to give the Democrats guns rather than knives and THEN see if they make nice with Republicans?
Unfortunately, someone still needs to come up with a set of ideas that some CURRENT leader and CURRENT set of voters will rally around. Demanding that we get Reagan and Reagan's ideas back has at least one very clear hole (unless we are going to clone him or something), and likely two, since without the USSR/Cold War and likely more than a few other problems (like Reagan's deficits in todays dollars would make even the biggest pro-deficit Republicans blanch), that strategy is all about "wishful thinking". Yup, the "old days" of Reagan may have been grand, but today is today, not 1980!