This is a must-read for all conservatives out there...
I don't agree, however, that "compassionate conservatism" is the inevitable result of Reagan's positivist politics. I think Diggins is straining at a gnat when he equates Reagan's Emersonian Unitarianism (and utilitarianism) to a reluctant acceptance of government. He misses Reagan's nearly ubiquitous message of self-sufficiency.
It is true that Reagan, like every other Republican President, beginning with Lincoln, got elected and immediately started doing very un-Republican things. However, the plea to pragmatism that inevitably accompanies that is a far easier pill to swallow from Reagan, given the totality of his record.
Since I must always wonder at the motives of pundits, I can't help but wonder at Will's motive here. Those who remember (and participated in) the political dialog of the 1980s can remember that Will was not particularly a fan of Reagan. He was known to make some snarky comments from time to time about the "Imperial Presidency" and so forth. On balance, I don't find Will's writing to be all that "conservative." It is missing most of the component of libertarianism that makes up what we defined as conservatism in the Twentieth Century. I expect Reagan's tendencies to embrace libertarianism are what Will probably found objectionable. It is ironic that Will would embrace a theory that the antithesis of libertarianism is the ultimate result of Reaganism.