Ezra says conservatives aren't out of ideas they're out of solutions:
What they're lacking, right now, are the appropriate problems. Because they don't have solutions for 47 million Americans without health insurance. They don't have solutions for a failing invasion that's exposed American power as significantly more constrained that the world imagined it to be. They don't have solutions for high gas prices, or a credit and mortgage crisis, or a dawning recognition that we're ruining the only planet we have.
There's something to that, but I think the problem is actually much worse -- the problem with the conservative movement is that it's fundamentally malign. The plenty of things of, for example, a deregulatory nature that would enhance access to health care. Reducing the regulatory barriers that artificially restrict the supply of health care wouldn't "solve" the health care problem in America, but it sure would help! And it could be a conservative idea in perfectly good standing. Reducing senseless land use regulation that over-mandate parking and under-supply residential density would mitigate inequality and reduce carbon emissions. And that could be a conservative idea in perfectly good standing. The whole situation of professional licensing in the United States is a scandal and very bad for poor people, and easing the burden there could be a conservative idea in perfectly good standing.
The trouble is that no sensible person believes that electing conservative politicians will actually improve the situation because even though some instances of reducing the power of economic privilege would be deregulatory and conservative, actually existing conservatism isn't interested in reducing the power of economic privilege except on behalf of some other, greater privilege. Similarly, the conservative movement is correct to say that more stable family structure would be a boon to America's children, but its operational commitment to family values just consists of the political exploitation of anti-gay sentiment. The ideas have some merit, it's the actual moral character of the people able to move the levers of power that are the problem -- they're not fundamentally interested in the merits of ideas, even their own ideas, they're interested in power and greed.