At least, that's what a buddy of mine argues.
Here's his theory: In the early and mid 80's both conservatism -- and heavy-metal -- were on the up-swing. But heavy-metal's mainstream popularity turned out to be a double-edged sword. Once the few elite bands started making big money, there was a "signing frenzy," where every 19-year-old with a good voice and cool hair moved to LA and instantly got a record deal.
This, of course, led to the music basically sucking. It was sort of like what happens in sports when there is a major expansion -- you end up with guys in the league who would have been cut the year before.
So why did heavy metal die (aside from the obvious fact that grunge came along)?
As my buddy says: "It went from G-N-R and Motley to Poison and Winger. Of course it was gonna' die!
... To which I added my political spin: "Yeah, we went from Barry Goldwater to Larry Craig. Of course it was going to die..."
I think the lesson to learn is that whether it's a music movement -- or a political movement -- it's hard to stay on top forever. You start off with a few brilliant and committed "true believers," but once they become successful, everybody else wants in on the action. So you end up with bands like Winger on the heavy metal rack at Wal-Mart -- and you get every moderate Republican all of a sudden saying they are "conservative" -- just because it's suddenly cool.
In a way, you could say it's a victory when everybody starts doing what you're doing. After all, if everybody wants to say they are conservative, that's sort of a victory. On the other hand, letting everybody in the club also ends up watering down what it really means to be a conservative.
The problem is that while a niche industry can be very successful and profitable -- even if they only capture a fraction of the market share (you can be the second best rock band in America, and you'll make millions) -- but in politics, you need a majority to get anything done. Coming in second in politics means you lose. As such, I think it's even harder to maintain the purity of a political movement. There will always be the temptation to trade-in your principles for a few more votes.
Sadly, it looks like we are essentially where heavy-metal was in 1992 -- and we are Warrant -- while Obama is Nirvana (no religious pun intended). Let's just hope McCain can be Metallica or Van Halen -- and survive -- even without the zeitgeist.