Early in his presidency, George W. Bush tried to bring back some of Reagan’s spirit with his ideas about “compassionate conservatism” as well as his use of human rights as a guide for foreign policy. Yet many of his economic policies, including the tax cuts for the wealthy and effort to privatize Social Security, as well as the immense problems of the war in Iraq, undercut his ability to revive this vision of conservatism.

Without a positive message, conservatism faces the risk of seeming primarily like a harsh creed, an ideology for those who are intent on disciplining people who have supposedly become dependent on government.

Unfortunately for conservatives, that includes a huge array of Americans, from the elderly to defense contractors to young children in schools. If this rhetoric continues, the GOP is at risk of becoming the party that takes away government services, takes away immigration rights, takes away social rights, but doesn’t offer anything back.