"One of the ways that Vladimir Putin retains power in Russia is to permit a systemic, yet insincere opposition in the legislature. Technically, these individuals are in an opposing party, but they are generally fine with Putin's government. Putin uses them to monitor his opposition and to create an illusion that there's an outlet for contrary opinions.
For too long, the conservative movement in Washington, D.C., functioned as the systemic opposition to progressivism's march through American institutions, public and private. Technically, they were opposed, and they'd make some sounds about opposing the growth of the administrative state and the cultural rot. But they were never terribly successful at returning the country to its first principles or constitutional order, despite the millions of supporters who put them in power and expected not just rhetoric but results.
Conservatism now is about rejecting this rigged system and taking the risk of working outside of it to advance its principles and policy objectives. The fact that conservatism had become a checklist of watered-down progressive policy prescriptions only served to hasten the demise of the old system.
What was conservatism's last great accomplishment? The expansion of Medicare Part D? The failed efforts to spread democracy by force through the Middle East? Wasted years talking about the repeal and replacement of Obamacare? Sitting idly by while Silicon Valley tech oligarchs took control of our discourse and set the parameters for acceptable thoughts and speech?
There is a limit to how long people could ride the high of the Reagan years without successive accomplishments.
Conservatism today is properly understood as constitutionalism and a revisiting of first principles about securing the blessings of liberty. It's a movement that demands meaningful free-trade agreements instead of just agreements based on the hope that someday China will play fair. It seeks hearty discussions about national sovereignty and meaningful borders. It acknowledges the limits, and costs, of military action. It recognizes that crouching cowardice in the face of cultural losses led the country to its current precipice, where people are terrified to speak freely and speak the truth.
And it doesn't care one whit if it has to completely upset the existing political order."