Since the 1990s, even some of the biggest Northeastern moderates — Rudy Giuliani, William Weld, Christine Todd Whitman, and Chris Christie — have run as conservatives on the big issues: crime, taxes, welfare, the cost of public sector unions. Their more liberal positions, no matter how sincerely held, were issues that were peripheral to their agenda. …

Yet somehow the federal government keeps getting bigger even when Republicans are in power. No matter how many Republican Supreme Court justices are appointed, Roe still stands, as do many of the major liberal precedents dating back to the Warren Court. Guns and taxes are two domestic issues on which conservatives have made inroads. Those inroads now appear to be in danger. …

Conservatives are often mocked for being overly sentimental about Ronald Reagan. But the conservative policy accomplishments that approach the significance and endurance of the New Deal or Great Society mainly date back to the Reagan years. In fact, aside from the Reagan economic program, winning the Cold War, and passing welfare reform in 1996, much of what Republicans have done at the national level is neither unimpeachably conservative nor indisputably successful. …

But the bottom line is that on some of the biggest issues that inspired conservatives to get into politics in the first place, the GOP has accomplished remarkably little.