Weigel continues the conversation:
When a party loses there are two reform factions -- the We Were Wrong faction and the Double Down faction. And obviously the Double Dow faction won in 2008, because the Republican base really believed that it lost power because it failed to cut taxes and spending.
I think that one factor in the abandonment of Frum/Salam/Douthat arguments is that the Republican political leaders who had an incentive, or a record, to argue the other side of this -- that would be Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, who saw the governing and political benefits of "compassionate conservatism" -- saw where the energy was and moved into flat-out opposition mode. But it's by no means settled that the Republican party can govern successfully without compromising with the welfare state. It sounds right on the campaign trail -- support the Constitution! Repeal the progressive era! Cut entitlements that we can't afford! Have a weekly vote on which programs to defund! -- but Frum et al are right to keep questioning whether it will work. There's a very likely scenario in which Republicans are handed power by angry voters who are surprised when the party makes real cuts, extends tax cuts and... available jobs don't immediately start surging.