The strength of the Reagan coalition was its embrace of the millions of activists that were motivated to stand up for traditional values. The conservative movement switched from activism to institutionalism during the late 1980s and 1990s. Today, the activists are in a new movement, the tea-party movement. Conservative leaders are frantic to get at the front of this parade, but it is unlikely they will succeed.
Americans want leaders who have courage. Republicans controlled Congress and the White House six of the Bush administration's eight years, and their failure to achieve any meaningful advance in the culture war, control spending, or to rein-in government is an important factor in their subsequent defeat.
If the Republican leadership takes a similar course following electoral victories in 2010, they will likely experience electoral defeats in 2012 or 2014.
Civilizations are successful in the long run if they reproduce their values in the next generation. On this scorecard, the conservative movement is failing.
The next half-decade is going to decide its success or failure. Running from social conservatism and the issues of marriage, family and life will only hasten its demise.