Tanenhaus overstates his case. Yet within that overstated case, there is contained an ominous truth.
This conservatism was not a philosophy of government--for these conservative governments felt little interest in governing. They lived to oppose and to overturn. For them, politics amounted to a series of exciting crusades: stop ERA, defeat the Panama Canal treaty, reverse Roe v. Wade, halt the assault weapons ban, impeach Clinton, topple Saddam, build the Mexico fence, pardon Ramos and ??
You'd think that after eight years of George W. Bush, conservatives would have discovered a new respect for the difficulty of successful governance. Yet just as Tanenhaus diagnosed: it is cultural hostility that still most excites our passions.
Frum blames the destructive grip that the conservative style--embodied by Sarah Palin--still has over the Republican Party. Indeed, the title of his post suggests that maybe conservatism is dead... and Sarah Palin's backers are just playing the role of Michael Palin in the famous "Parrot Sketch."