Wyman's comment under Election I sparked some thought. Conservatives who hope that the election of a liberal will prompt a backlash in 2012 and get them a more conservative president then are overlooking a point that is right in front of us. The unpopularity of Bush is due at least in part to his conservatism. We get focused on how that is an unfair PR job done against conservatives - that the country actually is more conservative than the media but the long anti-Bush tone has had its effect, that conservative views are misrepresented, that adherence to conservative spending principles and small government would have brought a different result, yadda-blah-yadda - but that is beside the point at present. However much we think that people really are conservative if they'd just think about it, or how much better they'd like it if they tried it, the simple fact remains that even Republicans went into some rebellion against conservatism in this round of primaries, nominating a partial conservative instead of a full blood Calvin Coolidge.
Coolidge Tangent: Silent Cal, BTW, was a good conservative but an unpleasant human being. His legendary laconic wit may have wisdom in it, but we wouldn't like him very much ourselves were he running now. His view of the depression he saw coming was that we shouldn't do much of anything about it, just let it ride its course. He saw, I think correctly, that intervention was likely to prolong it, however popular the intervention might be. The depression did go on much longer than it should have because of Roosevelt, so in a pure sense Coolidge was right. But the economy never exists in a pure situation away from politics, and somebody might have just shot him or sent the country in to revolution. We now know that fascism and communism are unsustainable ways of running the economy and the free market works (at least, some of us know that). But at the time that was not obvious. The totalitarian economies billed themselves as more efficient and that made sense to an enormous number of people. The American experiment looked to be coming to an end, to be superseded by a more modern, efficient method. Calvin Coolidge's grouchy refusal to do damaging but popular stuff would have ticked most of us off as well.
Back to 2008: Wyman is right. If we wanted someone more conservative, we should have nominated one. But even we didn't seem to want one that much. The unpopularity of Bush, partly earned, mostly unfair, has sent everyone from the center to the right in different directions looking for a solution, none of which quite matches the others. Before conservatives can attempt to hammer out a national consensus, we need to hammer out one of our own.