What isn't so clear is what it all amounts to. The noise has been overwhelming since George W. Bush took office. Abortion, euthanasia, stem cells, public Christmas displays, same-sex marriage, pornography in the movies, faith-based initiatives, immigration, visible patriotism: We've been warned by the media, over and over again, that Republicans are reshaping America into a Puritan's paradise. But at the end of the day, the media mostly won and the Republicans mostly lost. Social conservatism is in little better shape now than it was when Bush was first elected. In many ways, it is in worse shape.
In truth, no branch of conservatism has prospered much under Bush, particularly since the beginning of the Iraq War. Economic conservatives have had several victories, particularly with tax cuts, but on their fundamental worries about bloated government spending, they've been routed. From 2000 to 2006, the Republican Congress proved as financially undisciplined as its Democratic predecessors--and occasionally even less disciplined, as the prescription-drug entitlement and Katrina relief showed. And that's to say nothing about the scandals involving Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, Mark Foley and all the rest. The Gingrich Republicans used the long parade of congressional corruption to help defeat the Democrats in 1994, but they seemed all too ready to join it themselves once they had held power for a few years.
I can't agree with all of Bottum's assertions, particularly his assertion that Bush actually is a conservative. "Compassionate Conservatism" or "Big Government Conservatism" are euphemisms for some very un-conservative behavior. At heart, I am convinced that Bush is a socialist and a globalist. As well, he may be sincere in his social conservatism, but his ineptitude as pointed out by Bottum makes it look like mere pandering. In the main, though, Bottum's assessment that Bush is responsible, in large part, for the beating taken by American Conservatism over the last six years is spot on.